Holocaust Education in the Age of Twitter and TikTok

Eds: This story was provided by The Conversation for AP clients. Associated Press does not guarantee the content.

(THE CONVERSATION) In the age of social media, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial no longer lurk on the fringes, hurled by fringe hate groups. From Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, and NBA player Kyrie Irving to members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, anti-Semitic views have been echoed by well-known personalities, often online.

Beyond the high-profile figures, there are clear signs that anti-Semitism is becoming more common. In 2021, using the most recent data available, the Anti-Defamation League reported that anti-Semitic incidents in the US reached an all-time high. Eighty-five percent of Americans believe in at least one anti-Jewish trope, according to another ADL poll, and about 20% believe in six or more tropes, a sharp increase from just four years earlier. Additionally, Jewish college students increasingly report feeling unsafe, left out, or harassed on campus.

All of this is superimposed on a general lack of knowledge about the Holocaust. As International Holocaust Remembrance Day approaches, January 27, the day Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated, it is important to rethink how educators like me design lessons about anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.

Rather than teach the Holocaust as an isolated event, educators must grapple with how it connects to past and present anti-Semitism. That means adapting to the way people learn and live today: online.

Toxic Information Landscape

The online ecosystem where today’s anti-Semitism flourishes is a Wild West of information and disinformation that is largely unmonitored, distributed in an instant, and published by anyone. Posts on social media and news feeds are frequently filtered using algorithms that reduce the content users receive, reinforcing existing beliefs.

See also  Deadly cholera outbreak tightens grip on Middle East as cases nearly double in Lebanon - Lebanon

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

According to a 2022 United Nations report, 17% of public TikTok content related to the Holocaust denied or misrepresented it. The same was true for almost 1 in 5 Holocaust-related Twitter posts and 49% of Holocaust content on Telegram.

One emerging danger is artificial intelligence technology. New AI resources offer potential teaching tools, but also the threat of misinformation that is easily spread and unmonitored. For example, character AI and historical figures chat allow you to “chat” with a historical figure, including those associated with the Holocaust: from victims like Holocaust chronicler Anne Frank to perpetrators like Joseph Goebbels, the propaganda minister of Adolph Hitler.

These sites come with warnings that character responses could be fabricated and that users should verify historical accuracy, but it’s easy to be misled by inaccurate responses.

Another potential danger from AI is fake videos. Media experts warn of the destabilizing potential of “truth decay,” the inability to know what’s real and what’s fake, as the amount of synthetic content multiplies. Holocaust scholars are preparing to combat how historical sources and educational materials can be manipulated by deepfakes. There is particular concern that deepfakes are used to manipulate or undermine the testimony of survivors.

media literacy

Much of my scholarship addresses contemporary approaches to Holocaust teaching; for example, the need to rethink education as the number of Holocaust survivors who can still tell their stories rapidly dwindles. Addressing today’s toxic information landscape presents another fundamental challenge that requires innovative solutions.

See also  Pennsylvania Republican Lawmakers Push Bill Banning Transgender Girls From Participating in Women's Sports – CBS Pittsburgh

As a first step, educators can promote media literacy, the knowledge and skills needed to navigate and critique information online, and teach students to approach sources with healthy criticism and an open mind. Key strategies for K-12 students include training them to consider who is behind particular information and what evidence is provided and investigating the creators of an unknown online source by seeing what trusted websites are saying about their information or authors. .

Media literacy also involves identifying a source’s author, genre, purpose, and point of view, as well as reflecting on one’s own point of view. Finally, it is important to trace claims, citations, and media back to the original source or context.

Applying these skills to a Holocaust unit could focus on recognizing the implicit stereotypes and misinformation that online sources are based on and paying attention to who these sources are and what their purpose is. Lessons can also look at how social media enables Holocaust denial and investigate common formats for anti-Semitism online, such as fake videos, memes, and troll attacks.

Learning in the digital age

Holocaust educators can also embrace new technologies, rather than just lament their mistakes. For example, long after survivors are dead, people will be able to “converse” with them in museums and classrooms using specially recorded testimony and natural language technology. Such programs can match a visitor’s questions with relevant portions of pre-recorded interviews, responding almost as if they were speaking to the visitor in person.

There are also immersive virtual reality programs that combine recorded survivor testimonials with VR tours of concentration camps, survivors’ hometowns, and other historical sites. One such exhibit is “The Journey Back” at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center. Virtual reality experiences can not only transport viewers to such sites in a more realistic way than traditional lessons, but also allow students to partially decide how to interact with the virtual environment. In interviews for my current research, viewers report that virtual reality Holocaust experiences make them feel emotionally engaged with a survivor.

See also  'Sanditon' Recap: Season 2 Episode 2

The ‘family tree’ of society

People often learn about themselves by exploring their family trees, examining heirlooms passed down from ancestors, and telling stories around the dinner table, helping people understand who they are.

The same principle applies to understanding society. Studying the past provides a roadmap of how past people and events shaped current conditions, including anti-Semitism. It is important for young people to understand that the horrible history of anti-Semitism did not originate with the Holocaust. Lessons that lead students to reflect on how indifference and collaboration fueled hate, or how ordinary people helped stop it, can inspire them to speak up and act in response to growing anti-Semitism.

Holocaust education is not a neutral endeavor. As the survivor and academic Elie Wiesel said in accepting his 1986 Nobel Peace Prize: “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.”

The Conversation is an independent, nonprofit source of news, analysis, and commentary from academic experts. The Conversation is fully responsible for the content.

Holocaust Education in the Age of Twitter and TikTok count

Leave a Comment