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Informed Comment featured Professor Adam Klein’s piece "How to fight Holocaust denial in social media – with the evidence of what really happened"

12/07/2020

Informed Comment featured Professor Adam Klein’s piece "How to fight Holocaust denial in social media – with the evidence of what really happened"

One in four American millennials believe the Holocaust was exaggerated or entirely made up, according to a recent national survey that sought to find out what young adults know about the genocide of nearly 6 million Jews at the hands of Nazis some 80 years ago.

That startling statistic was cited as one of the main reasons that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg decided in October to finally ban Holocaust denial across the social network. Denying the Holocaust ever happened is an enduring form of anti-Semitic propaganda that attempts to deny or minimize the atrocities committed by the Nazis against the Jews during World War II.

Following Facebook’s lead, Twitter announced it, too, would remove any posts that denied the history of the Holocaust, though CEO Jack Dorsey appeared to contradict that policy at a Senate hearing weeks later.

Holocaust deniers have continued to emerge in social media, and perhaps predictably, many have migrated to less restrictive sites like Parler, where hashtags like #HolocaustNeverHappened and #HolocaustIsALie are widespread. “If you want Holocaust denial, hey, Parler is going to be great for you,” Bill Gates recently said of the social network.

While some tech companies address the rise in Holocaust revisionism, and others leave the door open, social networks have played an unwitting role in helping to distort the memory of these horrific events. But as a scholar who studies online extremism, I believe that same community could do more to protect Holocaust remembrance by highlighting the digitized accounts of those who lived through it.

A decadeslong campaign

Holocaust denial has been a tool of anti-Semitic movements since the 1960s. Pseudo-academic groups like the Institute for Historical Review, for example, spent years working to distort the public’s aging memory of the Holocaust, which took place between 1933 and 1945.

They tried to cast doubt on the feasibility of the mass executions, and even the existence of the gas chambers. They held annual conferences and gathered fellow deniers to share their beliefs that these events were conjured up by the Jewish people mostly as a means to justify the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.

Read the full Informed Comment article.