Secretary-General Calls Findings ‘Urgent Wake-Up Call’, as New United Nations Report Says Holocaust Denial, Distortion on Social Media Still Major Concern

Holocaust denial and distortion on social media remains a significant cause of concern, finds a new report released by the United Nations Department of Global Communications and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), with the support of the World Jewish Congress.

The report, titled “History under attack:  Holocaust denial and distortion on social media”, is a data-driven investigation into the extent and nature of Holocaust denial and distortion on contemporary social media.

Almost 4,000 pieces of content related to the Holocaust were collected in June and July 2021, from five major online platforms:  Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram and Telegram.  The content was manually analyzed by experts from the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford in English, French, German and Spanish, with the aim of providing a wide-ranging review that addresses multiple countries and contexts.

The review finds that nearly half of Holocaust-related content on Telegram either denied or distorted its history.  For moderated or regulated platforms, nearly 10 per cent of posts on Facebook and 15 per cent of posts on Twitter that discussed the Holocaust hosted denial or distortion content.

In his foreword for the report, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres highlighted that much more remains to be done to strengthen global resilience to disinformation.

“Understanding the history of the Holocaust is crucial to safeguarding our future,” the United Nations chief wrote.  “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.”

Holocaust denial and distortion as part of antisemitic discourse shifts in form in new contexts, and is entwined with other types of online harms, fueling racism, misogyny, xenophobia and homophobia.

The report concludes that reducing such harmful content largely depends on the willingness of social media platforms to take effective action.

“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,” the Secretary-General commented.

The full report is available at:  https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000382159

For information media. Not an official record.