76 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, a third of the world deny or minimise the Holocaust and shockingly it’s the new generations who are spreading these views. The Holocaust Centre and Museum asked us for help to tackle an issue that went well beyond the educational programs they had in place. Despite all their efforts to raise awareness about what really happened 76 years ago in schools and universities, they couldn’t compete with the influence social media has amongst young people.
We needed to make the new generations understand the reality of the Holocaust, its relevance in today’s world and how to help prevent something like this happening again. We found that young people were less likely to hold anti-semitic views but more likely to deny the Holocaust as they were heavily influenced by the toxic conversation happening on social media. We realised that denial was spreading in the same way as fake news. Infecting influential communities on Reddit before spreading into mainstream social media and news. Censoring fake news or banning those who were spreading them was just making the problem bigger. Instead of fighting the trolls we decided to copy their system, replacing their lies and half-truths with real Holocaust stories from the very people who survived it.
On International Holocaust Memorial Day, we launched a 24-hour global counterstrike at the heart of Holocaust denial online. Collaborating with communities from all corners of Reddit, we co-created and diffused real human stories people could empathise with and then help us spread online.
Like the trolls, we “raided” communities, replacing the frivolous memes in “r/unexpected” (1.9M users) with hundreds of deportation records from Holocaust victims.
We used clickbait and seeded articles in collaboration with historians to change the way history was being told in the platform.
And finally, we mass-outreached communities to create one of the most successful live-interviews of all time in Reddit’s popular “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) format, collaborating with Janine Webber, an 86 y.o. Holocaust survivor.
- Operation Denial went viral, hitting the front page of Reddit four times in 24hrs, with our Ask Me Anything interview staying there for 18 hours 29 mins, something achieved by only 1% of the posts that make it to the front page.
- The AMA became one of Reddit’s top 100 AMA’s of all time, reaching 32.7M people the first day, with 36k upvotes, bypassing those of celebrities such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sir Ian McKellen or Denzel Washington.