More stringent hate speech policies on online platforms can reduce the visibility of anti-Semitic and Holocaust-denying content, says a new report published by The Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a London-based think tank, on Sunday.
The Institute for Strategic Dialogue argues that Holocaust denial — the mitigation or rejection of realities faced by Jews during the genocide — qualifies as hate speech rather than just disinformation.
“This speech seeks not only to minimize the suffering of Jews during the Holocaust, but to mitigate criticism of Nazism and justify ongoing attacks against the Jewish people,” says the report. “Due to the intimate intersection between Holocaust denial and hate targeting Jews, such content should be regarded as inherently antisemitic.”
The report, “Hosting the ‘Holohoax’: A Snapshot of Holocaust Denial Across Social Media,” tracks the prevalence of “Holohoax” —a term frequently used by Holocaust deniers—across social media between 2018 and 2020.
According to the report, Reddit and YouTube have enacted policies that either totally block or limit the visibility of posts that deny “well-documented violent events” or that “are engaged in the promotion of hoaxes.” These measures have been largely successful at reducing the prevalence of Holocaust denial content across those platforms.
The study also recognizes 36 Facebook groups that collectively host hundreds of thousands of members and feature Holocaust denial content. The platform not only fails to remove posts denying the Holocaust, but actively promotes them to those who have viewed similar content in the past.
“[Facebook will] not remove lies or content that is inaccurate — whether it’s denying the Holocaust, the Armenian massacre, or the fact that the Syrian government has killed hundreds of thousands of its own people,” wrote Facebook executive Joel Kaplan in a 2019 letter. “This is because we do believe that people should be able to say things on Facebook that are wrong or inaccurate, even when they are offensive.”
Facebook’s amplification of Holocaust denial content has faced backlash from critics including the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany’s newly launched #NoDenyingIt campaign. The campaign has gathered testimonials from Holocaust survivors calling on Facebook to act against Holocaust denial on its platform.
“People who say that the Holocaust did not happen are actually calling me a liar,” said Holocaust survivor Sidney Zoltak. “My fellow survivors and I are not liars, we are witnesses.”
Noa Wollstein is a senior at Princeton University pursuing degrees in English, Documentary Production, and Journalism.
Report: ‘Holohoax’ and Holocaust denial hate speech