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Shoah Denial Online

by Michele Lipori

by Michele Lipori. Confronti Editorial Staff

A new report recently released by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) shows that—even though Facebook has removed the main posts on Holocaust denial from its platform—one year after the establishment of an application designed to monitor these topics, it presents still numerous gaps. The ADL, which monitors the spread of anti-Semitism through its Center on Extremism, claims it has been lobbying the social network for years to change its policy on Holocaust denial. To celebrate Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2021, the ADL Center for Technology and Society (CTS) looked at how different platforms have addressed Holocaust denial and produced the scorecard. Facebook and Instagram each received a “D,” the lowest rating.
October 2020. Facebook announces a change in policy against Holocaust deniers, classifying Holocaust denial under the label “hate speech” rather than simple “disinformation.”
The ADL researchers noted that three months after making the policy change, Facebook had not yet made the necessary changes to its application of the new policy and the content of the Holocaust denial was easily found on the platform. Finally, only in 2020 did it classify Holocaust denial under the label “hate speech” rather than simple “disinformation.”
#holohoax is one of the most-used hashtags by Holocaust deniers, a neologism that references “the ruse” or “practical joke” of the Holocaust.
The report found that, although groups dedicated to Holocaust denial have been removed from the platform, several public and private groups, as well as many personal profiles, still contain links to such “sources.”
Due to this change in policy, some deniers have migrated to more “permissive” digital platforms such as Brighteon, CloutHub, and Gab.
In 2020, an ADL survey found more than 2,000 cases of anti-Semitic aggression, harassment and vandalism, reported in 47 of the 50 US states. Facebook has removed references to #holohoax, the hashtag among the most widespread among Holocaust deniers. But the report found that many terms and hashtags remain on the social network which act as news condensers related to Holocaust denial. In recent years, the squeeze on social networks has grown stronger in overseeing hate groups, conspiracy theorists, right-wing armed groups, white supremacists and Christian nationalists. As a result, some of these have migrated to alternative digital platforms, such as Brighteon, CloutHub, and Gab. The report shows that technology companies need to invest more resources in understanding and preventing the spread of Holocaust denial, since the creation of new rules within a social platform does not necessarily involve significant changes. Detection tools should not only rely on keyword research, but should combine automated detection methods with human review.
The Anti-Defamation League still sees much room for improvement in the fight against online denial: – not entrusting platform management only to algorithms; – making the intervention criteria explicit
Additionally, as long as platforms are not transparent in communicating how they apply their policies, it is not yet possible to understand how they detect or make decisions about malicious content. While there may be credible security reasons for platforms not to share specific logic in application decisions, the lack of information prevents researchers from studying and understanding how those policies are implemented. Without transparency, civil society organizations, independent researchers and the public remain largely in the dark about how, when and why the platforms act.
Michele Lipori

Michele Lipori

Confronti Editorial Staff

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