TikTok app on smartphone
TikTok app on smartphoneiStock

The circulation of false information about the Holocaust is a growing problem online, and not all platforms are taking effective action to curb this harmful trend. The Centre for Countering Digital Hate said in August last year that 84% of anti-Semitic content reported to social media companies was allowed to remain on their platforms.

According to United Nations and UNESCO data, 17% of content related to the Holocaust on TikTok either denied or distorted the Holocaust. Faced with this problem, the platform has decided to act, by drawing on the expertise of UNESCO and the World Jewish Congress (WJC).

From Thursday, TikTok users searching for terms related to the Holocaust, such as "Holocaust victims" or "Holocaust survivor," will see a banner at the top of their search results which invites them to visit the WJC and UNESCO website, "About Holocaust." Users searching for terms related to the Holocaust which violate TikTok´s Community Guidelines, will be informed their search results are banned, and will be shown the same banner inviting them to visit the WJC and UNESCO online education website.

Jointly hosted by the WJC and UNESCO, the website AboutHolocaust.org sets out in 19 different languages the facts of the Holocaust, educating readers on the historical roots of the genocide, its processes and consequences.

"Denying, distorting or trivializing the true facts of the Holocaust is a pernicious form of contemporary anti-Semitism. We welcome TikTok’s commitment to act with UNESCO and the WJC. All online platforms must take responsibility for the spread of hate speech by promoting reliable sources of information," said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay.

"The World Jewish Congress is proud to partner with UNESCO and TikTok in making factual and reliable information about the Holocaust available to 1 billion monthly users. TikTok is known for its ability to reach a younger audience, many of them uninformed about the horrors of the Holocaust and particularly susceptible to misinformation. We welcome the platform taking responsibility and leveraging its reach to stop the spread of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial," said World Jewish Congress President, Ronald S. Lauder.

"We believe education plays a critical role in striking out hate, which is why we're proud to partner with the World Jewish Congress and UNESCO to help people learn about the Holocaust and understand their role in fighting modern-day anti-Semitism. Hateful behaviour is incompatible with TikTok's inclusive environment, and we'll continue to put our full strength behind keeping our platform a place that is free of hate, while harnessing the power of TikTok to educate our community," said Liz Kanter, Director, Government Relations, UK, Ireland, & Israel.

Disinformation about the Holocaust and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have spiked dramatically on social media platforms since the outbreak of COVID-19. Widespread and growing ignorance of the history of the Holocaust fuels the problem. A 2020 study reported that 41% of American young adults believe that two million or fewer, rather than 6 million Jews were killed. In France, 69% among Millennial and Gen Z respondents did not know the correct figure, and in Austria 58% respondents in the same age bracket did not know it.

One year ago, UNESCO and the WJC signed a similar partnership with Facebook. Since then, AboutHolocaust.org has been accessed nearly 400,000 times from more than 100 countries.