LONDON: A joint UN and UNESCO report released on Wednesday has criticized the encrypted messaging app Telegram, as well as other social media sites, for hosting what it describes as Holocaust denial content.
The paper, published in partnership with World Jewish Congress, investigated the presence of Holocaust denialism on social media platforms.
“The report reveals that there are still social networks where Holocaust denial and distortion spread without moderation, and that this content is used to fuel hatred. We can fight against these phenomena by taking action on content and educating users,” said Audrey Azoulay, director general of UNESCO.
Telegram spokesperson Remi Vaughn issued a statement to The Washington Post, saying: “Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have made misinformation the problem that it is today by promoting sensational posts with their algorithmic feeds.
“This is far less relevant on Telegram, where people get only the content they explicitly subscribe to.”
UNESCO, which commissioned researchers from the Oxford Internet Institute to identify and analyze 4,000 posts related to the Holocaust across Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, TikTok and Twitter, found that “nearly half (49 percent) of Holocaust-related public content on this platform (Telegram) denies or distorts the facts.”
They also found that this rate spikes to more than 80 percent in German, and 50 percent in English and French messages.
According to the research, denialism or distortion as a proportion of Holocaust-related message drops to 19 percent on Twitter, 17 percent on TikTok, 8 percent on Facebook and 3 percent on Instagram.
Telegram, which has faced scrutiny over its lack moderation and clear user guidelines, is accused of hosting explicitly antisemitic Holocaust-related information, which is easily accessed and shared by users.
Jonathan Bright, research associate at Oxford Internet Institute, called for stricter content regulations: “There is no place for any form of hate speech, racism, misogyny or xenophobia online and we urge the platforms and governments around the world to adopt the series of recommendations set out in the joint UNESCO and UN report released today.
“Only by taking collective action can we begin to tackle the fight against online hate.”
The report puts forward a series of practical recommendations, including better monitoring of users and content, and the launching of government-led initiatives to tackle misinformation and antisemitism.