Interview with Anna Lenchovska, executive director and Lyn Sidelnikov, intern at Kyiv Educational Center Tolerspace, which runs a TikTok campaign to educate about Antisemitism.

Anna Lenchovska, what is the goal of your TikTok campaign?

Our big goal is a tolerant society, lowering prejudice among youth and providing an opportunity for youth to discuss complicated topics. Our campaign is based on “peer-to-peer approach”, it is scholarly proven that teenagers trust their peers more than their parents and other adults. Teenagers are already in TikTok, for many of them it is both entertainment and a source of knowledge. So, we decided to enter so-called “edutainment” segment of TikTok. We work with 15-19 year old interns, organize meetings with experts on antisemitism, antigypsyism, hate speech and correct vocabulary, Holocaust history, history of national-socialist crimes, genocide, human rights as well as non-discrimination. Then they create scenarios and shoot videos. Anna Sidelnikova and Yana Radhenko supervise this process. Another important goal is to show teenagers and youth that after an internship and active participation in discussions under videos, they have knowledge and skills to discuss difficult topics, they got inspiration for civic activism and for deeper research. After the internship, young people feel empowered for civic action. During this year, we have created a database of quality educational videos. We develop methodical recommendations and now conduct webinars for teachers of history and civic education. Now we have 25 thousand subscribers, over 1.8 million views of our video about women rights as well as 117 thousand views and 351 comments on the video about Baby yar.


Lyn, please give us a creator-tip: How can young people be sensitized to serious topics via TikTok?

Actually, a lot of Ukrainian young people are already interested in serious topics that are strongly connected to their own lives: politics, war, war crimes and genocide. They want to educate themselves in this area. Talking about more historical topics, the best format is just real stories of real people in my opinion. Something that wakes up their empathy. And lastly, it may sound funny, but being intelligent and educated is attractive now. So, you just need to convince them that you're providing some kind of unique knowledge that they can use to impress peers at the parties. We use creative formats to attract and to keep attention and curiosity. In our rubric “We’ve got news”, we tell news related to human rights and non-discrimination. I use a hand puppet - a sock “Shkarpo” with whom we discuss it. We also create interactive videos about choice and ethical dilemmas, proposing viewers to take a position and explain it in the comments. In the video about urbicide I came up with the idea of building the town from bricks and then destroying it, to show how russian missiles are destroying Ukrainian cities and villages. In the video about critical thinking and magic thinking, I was changing cloths to illustrate the difference between a fortune teller and a researcher.

What challenges do historical-political creators and educators face when dealing with Antisemitism on TikTok?

Anna Lenchovska: After the month of our campaign, Holocaust deniers came to the discussion under the videos about survivors. Also, they wrote Antisemitic comments. We have blocked most violent comments of deniers using our anti-crises strategy, and discussed with those who had doubts in their arguments. Then someone had sent a group complain about our video with recommendations of films about the Holocaust, and this video was blocked. We wrote an appellation to the TikTok support team, and in a week the video was unblocked.

Lyn Sidelnikov: In addition, sometimes we get Antisemitic comments related to the Jewish plot theory - even if the video is not related to a topic that deals with Jews. One example: we received comments that “Jews run the world” under the video about romantization of the USSR. Aside from that, we regularly receive questions, why we make videos about the Holocaust since Israel has not recognized the Holodomor as genocide.

Anna Lenchovska: We try to advance a culture of talk in TikTok in general. We provide links to sources, research, we name experts etc. But there is a general challenge on TikTok, that a person is constantly scrolling, and some of those videos may contain fake news or lie or mistakes. TikTok also tries itself to combat hate speech and Antisemitism. Once even our historical video about Auschwitz was blocked, because there was a swastika on one of historical photos we used for the video.