Holocaust Denial & Social Media

HMD2015January 27 has been designated by the United Nations as the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is the day on which Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp, was liberated. On this day, we remember the 6 million Jews who were murdered under an official Nazi policy to exterminate them for simply being who they were: Jews. The concepts of genocide and crimes against humanity arose in response to the Holocaust.

This year, Holocaust Memorial Day comes shortly after the tragic terrorist attacks in France. Our recent report “#Jesuishumain: Responsible free speech in the shadows of Charlie Hebdo” highlighted how the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo were killed for publishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, while the Jews at the Kosher supermarket were killed for no reason other than the fact that they were Jews. The report points out how these attacks are not isolated, and point to growing trend of antisemitism worldwide. A few days ago, on January 22, the UN General Assembly called a special plenary session to discuss the rising antisemitic violence around the world.

OHPI has been highlighting the role of social media in spreading antisemitism since its inception. As our reports and briefings on online antisemitism constantly highlight, social media has provided a platform to spread antisemitic canards and misinformation about Jews, jokes that dehumanize Jews, and calls for outright violence This is leading to greater normalisation of such hate, when people see the same hateful message repeatedly they stop speaking out against it. It becomes embedded in the fabric of society.

This briefing highlights how Holocaust denial is used to spread hate against Jews, that is, antisemitism. Three items for you to report, and instructions to help you report them, appear at the very end of this briefing.

Holocaust Denial is a form of antisemitism

Holocaust denial refers to denial of an official policy by the Nazi government to exterminate Jews, which led to the killing of between 5-6 million Jews. The “working definition” of antisemitism includes “denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust)” as an example of modern antisemitism.

The working definition of antisemitism was created in 2005 by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (now the Fundamental Rights Agency). It has been adopted by the US Government for the State Department Report on antisemitism, and by the British Police as part of their Hate Crimes Operations Guide. The London Declaration of the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism, signed by members of Parliament from around the world, including Australia, also adopts the Working Definition and encourages its widespread use.

At the special plenary session of the United Nations General Assembly, the French philosopher and writer Bernard-Henri Lévy explained how Holocaust denial is being used today to spread antisemitism. The argument goes, he says, “The Jews are all the more detestable because they are believed to base their beloved Israel on imaginary suffering, or suffering that at the very least has been outrageously exaggerated. This is the shabby and infamous denial of the Holocaust”.

For a long time, Holocaust denial had been the remit of discredited academics and fringe groups. However, the spread of social media has allowed such groups to take such thinking to the mainstream without the filters and checks provided by academic bodies or journalists.

Holocaust denial takes place in two forms. First is outright denial of the fact that the Holocaust ever occurred or claiming that the number of Jews killed is grossly exaggerated. The second form mocks the victims of the Holocaust. As we discuss in this briefing, such deliberately offensive content is aimed to demonize and dehumanize the Jewish community.

As OHPI’s CEO, Dr Andre Oboler, stated in one of our recent reports: “The Holocaust is a tragedy of human history in which a vast number of people lost their lives. Not only families, but entire communities were wiped out. The Holocaust is the event from which the very concepts of genocide and of crimes against humanity were created. To mock the Holocaust is not just to insult Jews, or to make fun of the dead, or to insult the survivors by calling their testimony lies. These may be the reasons we object to Holocaust denial, but they are not the reason why France and other countries ban Holocaust denial. The reason Holocaust denial is banned is the same reason glorification of Nazism is banned. They are banned out of a desire to prevent a re-emergence of fascism.”

Holocaust denial has been banned in 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Switzerland, and Romania. Professor Michael J. Bazyler explained the pre-emptive nature of these laws against Holocaust denial. He said that, “the aim of these laws is to prevent the resurrection of Nazism in Europe by stamping out at the earliest opportunity – or to use the phrase ‘to nip it in the bud’ – any public reemergence of Nazi views, whether through speech, symbols, or public association.”

Antisemitic comparisons with the Holocaust

The issue of comparisons with the Holocaust takes two forms. The first is part of an explicitly antisemitic campaign targeting Israel. The second form of comparison occurs when people with ill intent try to minimize the Holocaust through comparisons.

On the first form of comparison, the Working Definition of Antisemitism explains that “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” is a form of modern antisemitism. During the Gaza war last year we explained why comparing the situation in Gaza to the Holocaust was deeply problematic. As OHPI’s CEO, Dr Andre Oboler, explained in The Australia, the promotion of this comparison was an explicit direction in a social media guide prepared by Hamas as an antisemitic propaganda adjunct to their war effort.

The Hamas guide instructs its activists to avoid entering into a political argument with a Westerner aimed at convincing him that the Holocaust is a lie and deceit, asking them instead to equate Israel’s actions with the Nazis. Thus, Hamas aims to use the Holocaust to spread hate against Jews around the world by presenting them as perpetrators of genocide. This is not just insulting to the Jews and the survivors of the Holocaust, but to all victims of genocide.

The acceptance of the “Israel = Nazi” meme, and the willing of some human rights activists to engaging in activity they agreed met the definition of antisemitism, but to argue it was acceptable due to “exceptional circumstances”, is deeply troubling. The very point of human rights is that they apply at all times, to all people, everywhere. Once we accept that certain formulations are a form of racism against a particularly group, there is no legitimate excuse for engaging in that behaviour.

The second form of comparison with the Holocaust ignores the uniqueness of the Holocaust. The Nazis created an entire industry to support their genocide of the Jews. Even after they knew they had lost the war, the Nazis continued with their efforts to exterminate the Jews. In some cases their efforts to kill Jews were given higher priority, in terms of resourcing, than their war efforts. The Holocaust was an industrialised process whose purpose was the production of dead Jews in the most efficient manner possible.

Professor Yehuda Bauer, a leading expert on the Holocaust, said during his address at the UN General Assembly’s first International Holocaust Remembrance Day commemoration (in 2006) that in any comparison between the Holocaust and other genocides, one must mention that the Holocaust involved the creation of an industry to manufacture corpses. This is what makes it unique in human history. As he points out in a paper, while the Israeli-Palestine conflict is bloody and difficult, it is not genocide as Israel neither aims to, nor is, working towards annihilating the Palestinian population.

The comparison with other actual genocides, such as Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur, can also be made with ill intent. This is usually done so they can go on to suggest less attention be spent remembering the Holocaust. Such moves are usually a prelude to suggesting various forms of antisemitism should be accepted, and it is only because of the attention paid to the Holocaust that they are not. This is a form of victim blaming; it is no more than an antisemite complaining about being stopped from being racist due to recognition of the horror previous racists have caused, and which they would likely like to see repeated. This is called learning from history, and we need more not less of it.

Social Media & Holocaust Denial

Most of the popular social media platforms are based out of the US. Holocaust denial, like other forms of hate speech, is covered by the free speech principle of the First Amendment to the United States constitution. This means the US Government cannot pass a law prohibiting Holocaust denial, but neither can it pass a law insisting it be protecting on private platforms like Facebook. IT is simply outside the power of Congress to regulate policies about such content. On the plus side, last month the US congress finally agreed, unanimously, to stop paying social security to Nazis.

When it comes to the publications, the choice is left to the platform providers. Many of them are choosing to only remove Holocaust denial from those countries where it is specifically illegal. Unfortunately, Australia isn’t one of them, though Holocaust denial material has been found by the courts to breach the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth). There is the potential for legal action against the platforms if they fail to block Holocaust denial content from Australia when requested.

OHPI’s CEO is also co-chair of the Online Antisemitism Working Group of the Global Forum to Combat Antisemitism, a body which has taken action to pressure Facebook to alter its position on Holocaust denial. In a letter to the Global Forum to Combat Antisemitism in 2011 Facebook justified their position of permitting most forms of Holocaust denial on the grounds that they “recognize people’s right to be factually wrong about historical events” and that this was different to “direct statements of hate and clear threats of violence against specific people or groups of people”. Facebook’s position has been described as “naive and out of touch with reality”. OHPI has discussed Holocaust denial, often urging Facebook to review its policy, in various OHPI reports, briefings, media articles and social media postings.

Three examples of Holocaust Denial on YouTube

In December the Online Hate Prevention Institute released our new online reporting platform “Fight Against Hate”. The online system allows users to report various forms of hate they see in Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. So far 818 reports have been made to the system about 472 unique items in social media. So far 25 of the items are about Holocaust denial. Here’s three videos, on YouTube at the time of writing, which we urge you to report.

The first video is classic Holocaust denial. It is subtitled “The ‘Holohoax’ exposed in 30 minutes” and has YouTube ID# bpjqf-vNq6I. It has been online since September 12, 2012 and in that time has been seen by 12,848 viewers. The user profile behind the video has a banner image with pictures including: Hitler, marching Nazis, dead Holocaust victims, and the entrance to Auschwitz. The user ID is “SansConcessionTV”.

The second video is called “HOLOCAUST HOAX exposed NEW PROOF 2013” and seeks to prove in documentary style, complete with computer generated models, that the Holocaust couldn’t have happened. The video has YouTube ID# ieE22Apyn0Q. It has been online since August 4, 2013 and has been seen by 46,535 people. The video is posted by a user called “openeyestelevision”, which contains a range of different conspiracy theory type videos.

The third video is called “David Irving – Holocaust (Holohoax) Lies Exposed!” and is of a talk by discredited Holocaust denier David Irving in Ohio in 1995. The video has YouTube ID# eMYAjyW1OFU.It has been online since April 19, 2012. It has been seen by 71,781 people. The video is posted by user “VinceNF1488”, clearly a user called Vince who supports the National Front, and considers himself a neo-Nazi using the “magic” 14/88 combination, 14 for the 14 words and 88 for the 8th letter of the alphabet, i.e. “h” for in this case HH for “Heil Hitler”. His videos are mostly about Hitler and Nazis.

Why not take a few minutes to report these videos, and at least the first and third users whose purpose on YouTube seems to be the glorification of Nazism?

How to Report Holocaust Denial on YouTube

Before reporting, please take a moment to use the social media buttons at the top of this page to share this briefing with others. The more people that see it, the more people can help to report this content.

When you do report the content, please report this Holocaust denial both to the platform provider (e.g. YouTube) and to OHPI’s online hate reporting system “Fight Against Hate” which can be found at http://fightagainsthate.com

To report on YouTube:

  • Go to bpjqf-vNq6I, ieE22Apyn0Q and eMYAjyW1OFU (these will open in new windows)
  • For each video do the following:
    • Click on “More” underneath the red subscribe button.
    • A drop down menu will appear asking whether you want to report or flag the video. Choose Report.
    • In the drop down menu asking “what is the issue?” choose “Hateful or abusive content”.
    • In the next drop down menu choose “Promotes hatred or violence”.
    • In the box that now appears asking for timestamp and additional details, leave the timestamp as is, and write something like “Promotes Holocaust Denial” in the box asking for additional details.
    • Click submit.

To report to Fight Against Hate

Once you have done this, please also report the content to OHPI. This allows us to track the Holocaust denial content, how many people have notified the platform (e.g. YouTube) about it, and also allows us to monitor whether the platforms takes action based on your reports. Reporting to Fight Against Hate is simple and fast. The first time you report through Fight Against Hate you will need to register and confirm your account via e-mail. After this you will be able to login and:

  1. Paste the web address of the videos into the submit box, and click the button
  2. Select “antisemitism” as the type of hate being reported, and say how sure you from the options provided
  3. On the next screen, select “Holocaust denial” and say how sure you are

After this you are done and will be return to the main screen to report the next item. More detailed instructions are also available here.

What to do next?

Please also take a moment to report the Facebook page Holohoax – Exposing the Holocaust to both Facebook and Fight Against Hate. This briefing tells you how to report it on Facebook.

If you haven’t already done so, please like the Online Hate Prevention Institute’s Facebook page which can be found at http://www.facebook.com/onlinehate