UNESCO, UN report: Social media platforms play critical role in stemming online hate

NEW YORK – Reducing the large amount of Holocaust denial and distortion
online requires effective action on the part of social media platforms,
according to a first-of-its-kind report
released today by
UNESCO and the UN Department for Global Communications, in partnership with the
World Jewish Congress.

The study, titled “History Under Attack: Holocaust Denial and Distortion
on Social Media,” specifically
investigates platforms that include Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, Twitter and
TikTok and provides recommendations of academic resources and improved content
moderation standards for governments, online platforms, educators and
researchers to counter denial and distortion, prevent antisemitism and uphold
human rights.

“As Holocaust deniers
become more sophisticated, so must those who are working to fight this evil,”
said WJC President Ronald S. Lauder of the data-driven report. “WJC looks forward
to continuing to support the United Nations and UNESCO in their international
efforts on Holocaust education and fighting antisemitism.”

Platforms that moderate
content and provide reliable information about the subject matter have greater
impact in addressing the issue, the study showed.

About half of
Holocaust-related content on Telegram, which is not moderated, either denied or
distorted its history, according to the experts’ wide-ranging review. For Holocaust-related
posts on moderated platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, 10 percent and 15
percent, respectively, included denial or distortion.

For the report, nearly
4,000 pieces of content related to the Holocaust, including posts and memes
glorifying the atrocities of the Nazis and making light of their destruction of
the Jewish communities of Europe during World War II, were collected in June
and July 2021 from five major online platforms. The content was then manually
analyzed by experts from the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of
Oxford in English, French, German and Spanish.

“Understanding the
history of the Holocaust is crucial to safeguarding our future,” UN Secretary-General
António Guterres wrote in the report’s foreword. “If we fail to identify and
confront the lies and inhumanity that fueled past atrocities, we are
ill-prepared to prevent them in the future.”

The UN chief added, “This
report is an urgent wake-up call that must jolt us into action – to pursue
truth, remembrance and education, and together build a world of peace, dignity
and justice for all.”

Echoing those remarks, UNESCO
Director-General Audrey Azoulay said, “The report reveals that there
are still social networks where Holocaust denial and distortion spread without
moderation, and that this content is used to fuel hatred. We can fight against
these phenomena by taking action on content and educating users.”

She added, “But we cannot only
rely on the voluntary participation of platforms: We also need common principles
and guidelines.”

WJC has forged
partnerships with Facebook and TikTok; both platforms have launched features
encouraging users who search for keywords associated with the Holocaust to
learn more by visiting the WJC and UNESCO site,
developed to showcase basic facts about the destruction of European Jewry by
the Nazis and their collaborators during World War II.

The site, now available
in 19 languages, has about 15,000 daily users. Total users number more than 1

“WJC will continue to pursue additional
partnerships with social media companies to strengthen the global effort
against online antisemitism,” said Yfat Barak-Cheney, WJC director for
International Affairs and Human Rights, who provided feedback for the report
along with Leon Saltiel, WJC representative at the United Nations office in
Geneva and UNESCO and WJC coordinator on Countering Antisemitism.

To view the report, please go here.

About the World Jewish Congress

The World Jewish Congress (WJC) is the international organization representing Jewish communities in 100 countries to governments, parliaments and international organizations.

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