Holocaust education in the age of Twitter and TikTok

In the age of the Internet, anti-Semitic speech and Holocaust denial speech no longer revolve around marginal hate groups but are exposed to everyone on social networks. High-profile figures like Ye – formerly known as Kayne West – or NBA player Kyrie Irving have expressed anti-Semitic ideas on their online accounts recently.

Beyond these media figures, the alarming results of the survey also show that anti-Semitism is increasingly widespread. In 2021, using the most recent data available in the United States, the Anti-Defamation League reported that anti-Semitic incidents in the United States reached an all-time high. According to another ADL survey, 85% of Americans believe at least one anti-Jewish trope, and about 20% believe six or more tropes – a sharp increase from four that was just a year ago.

In 2021, a survey published by the Action and Protection League (APL), a partner organization of the European Jewish Association (EJA), and conducted over two years, estimated that 20% of Europeans will have anti- Semitic perspective.

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All this adds up to a general lack of knowledge about the Holocaust. As International Holocaust Remembrance Day is marked on January 27 – the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau – it is important to rethink how courses dealing with anti-Semitism are designed and how the Holocaust is taught.

Beyond studying it as a historical event, one must question its links to past and present anti-Semitism, implying adaptation to current modes of information and life around the digital.

A toxic information landscape

The digital ecosystem in which today’s anti-Semitism thrives is a Wild West of information and disinformation posted by anyone and distributed in real time. Messages shared on social networks and in news feeds are regularly filtered by algorithms that target the content users receive based on their profile, which can reinforce pre-existing beliefs.

Major platforms like TikTok, which is growing rapidly among young people, can be used to promote anti-Semitism, as well as lesser-known apps like Telegram.

The digital ecosystem is a Wild West where information and misinformation collide.

According to a 2022 report by the United Nations, 17% of TikTok’s public content regarding the Holocaust denied or misrepresented the story. The same goes for almost one in five messages on Twitter on the subject and 49% of content on Telegram.

If it can offer new educational resources, artificial intelligence also poses the threat of easily spread and uncontrolled disinformation. For example, character AI and Historical Figures Chat allow you to chat with historical figures, including Holocaust victims like Anne Frank or perpetrators of crimes like Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler’s propaganda minister .

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These sites include warnings that the characters’ answers may be fabricated and that users should verify their historical accuracy, but it’s easy to imagine how Internet users might be misled by these dialogues.

Deepfake videos are another potential AI risk. Media experts have warned about the risk of destabilization represented by this “destruction of truth”, that is, the lack of distinction between true and false, as this type of artificial content spreads. Holocaust scholars are preparing to combat the manipulation of deepfakes in historical sources and educational materials. There are particular concerns that deepfakes are being used to reproduce and discount survivors’ testimonies.

Media Education

Much of my research focuses on contemporary approaches to Holocaust education – for example, the need to rethink the transmission of history as the number of survivors who can still testify is rapidly declining. Dealing with a toxic information landscape is another major challenge that requires innovative solutions.

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As a first step, educators can promote media literacy, that is, the knowledge and skills needed to navigate and include and evaluate information online. It is about teaching them to ask themselves who the source of a particular piece of information is, what evidence is provided, and to investigate the authors of unknown sources by consulting what reliable sources say. website about it. This includes questioning the purpose of the source and reflecting on one’s own perspective. Finally, it is important to return to the source or the original context of the quotations.

Applying these skills to a course on the Holocaust can focus on identifying implicit stereotypes and misinformation that rely on online sources, and paying attention to the identity of these sources and their purpose. Courses may also examine how social media enables Holocaust denial and study common formats of online antisemitism, such as deepfake videos, memes, and troll attacks.

Learning in the digital age

Holocaust scholars can also take advantage of new technologies, rather than just singling out their pitfalls. For example, long after survivors are dead, they will make it possible to “talk” to them in museums and classrooms using specially recorded testimonies and language technologies. These programs can match visitor questions to relevant parts of pre-recorded interviews.

Holocaust survivor Lili Leignel shares her story with children (Brut).

There are also immersive programs that combine recordings of survivor testimonies with virtual reality tours of concentration camps, survivor towns and other historical sites such as “The Journey Back” to the Holocaust Museum in London. ‘Illinois. In interviews conducted as part of my current research, visitors report that these experiences make them feel emotionally connected to survivors.

Exploring their family tree, examining items inherited from ancestors and passing stories over dinner often help people understand their identity.

The same principle applies to society. Studying the past helps understand how past people and events have shaped current events, including anti-Semitism. It is important for young people to understand that the terrible history of anti-Semitism began before the Holocaust. Getting students to think about how indifference and collaboration have fueled hatred – or how ordinary people have resisted it – can inspire them to speak out and fight against the rising that hate. anti-Semitism.

Holocaust education is not a neutral enterprise. As survivor and scholar Elie Wiesel said upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, not the victim”.

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