Holocaust Forum Focuses On Social Media Role in Antisemitism

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven and his wife Ulla arrive at the Malmoe International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance on October 13, 2021.
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven and his wife Ulla arrive at the Malmoe International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance on October 13, 2021. (AFP)

Participants at a Holocaust remembrance conference in Sweden blamed social media Wednesday for contributing to a global rise in antisemitism, while YouTube and Facebook officials pledged to be part of the solution.

Government and social media representatives attending the International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance in Malmo vowed to crack down on hate speech, disinformation and the denial of facts both online and off. Facebook Chief Operating Officer Ms. Sheryl Sandberg said the company is now removing 15 times more hate speech than five years ago.

U.S. Secretary of State Mr. Antony Blinken said the United States was allocating $1 million to counter online antisemitic hate speech in the Mideast and North Africa. Washington also has started an expanded series of international visitor leadership programs to confront Holocaust distortion and antisemitism in North Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Latin America, he said.

Our priorities include condemning and countering antisemitism, ensuring physical security for Jewish communities, supporting Holocaust education, especially for young people, protecting religious freedom and urging countries to commit more deeply to the fight against hate speech online, Mr. Blinken said in a video message.

Mr. Pedro Pina, head of YouTube in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, said the video sharing platform owned by Google pledged more than $5.8 million.

Anti-Semitism, a threat to the democracies and open societies

The head of the European Union’s executive arm, European Commission President Ms. Ursula von der Leyen called Holocaust denial and antisemitism a threat to Jewish people, but it is also a poison for our democracies, our values and our open societies.

From Brussels, Ms. von der Leyen said the 27-nation EU plans to create a network of young European ambassadors for Holocaust remembrance. She added: “Who is in a better position to teach the lessons of the Shoah to their peers than our young?”

Swedish Prime Minister Mr. Stefan Lofven, the event’s host, said other pledges included new memorial sites, museums and educational programs dedicated to preserving the history of the Holocaust and the mass killings of Roma. And he said the one-day conference was by no means the end of the road.

On the contrary, this is a powerful relaunch of the work to combat antisemitism, anti Roma-ism and other forms of racism, Mr. Lofven said. The real work starts now. It’s now that our pledges must be turned into concrete action, he added.

The first International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance was held in Stockholm in 2000. International leaders urged all countries at the time to open secret government files on Nazi Germany’s extermination campaign, a genocide that killed 6 million European Jews.

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