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Lawyer in David Irving Holocaust denial trial warns of rise in antisemitic hatred online

PUBLISHED: 17:09 18 January 2017 | UPDATED: 16:19 19 January 2017

James Libson, pictured speaking at the Phoenix Cinema, believes social media platforms should adopt an editorial policy against growing Holocaust denial material.

James Libson, pictured speaking at the Phoenix Cinema, believes social media platforms should adopt an editorial policy against growing Holocaust denial material.

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The solicitor, who features in the film Denial, says there is “reams and reams” of far-right material online, and search engines should take a stand

Professor Deborah Lipstadt, in front of the High Court, fighting the legal action by discredited historian David Irving in 2000. Photo: PA Professor Deborah Lipstadt, in front of the High Court, fighting the legal action by discredited historian David Irving in 2000. Photo: PA

James Libson, a partner at Mishcon de Reya, was part of the team who successfully defended professor Deborah E. Lipstadt.

She was accused of libel after correctly calling Mr Irving a “Holocaust denier” in her book, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory.

The High Court trial in 2000 - where the burden of proof was on Professor Lipstadt to prove the truth of the Holocaust - is the subject of a new film, Denial.

Speaking at the Phoenix Cinema in East Finchley at a charity screening by World Jewish Relief, Mr Libson said that while Mr Irving is largely discredited, the real danger is the rise of Holocaust denial online.

He said: “If you go home and you just type in the word “did” into Google, what will be auto-suggested is, “did the Holocaust happen?”

“If you just typed in “did six,” it would come up with “did six million Jews die?”

“And when you click on that, you’ll get reams and reams of Holocaust denial, and you won’t get the answers to Holocaust denial, you’ll just get the raw denial itself...

“[Irving] remains discredited, I think, and no one really takes him seriously, but what you can see on the internet, there is no rebuttal to that. I think that’s far more concerning.”

Mr Libson, a World Jewish Relief trustee, says there needs to be a new way of fighting the “noise of denial online” – perhaps with social media companies and search engines taking an editorial stance.

“The law is able to deal with things on a case by case basis, it’s the volume of it that the law can’t deal with, you need people to bring cases and that’s expensive...

“I actually think the responsibility lies with the internet service providers and the social media companies.

“They have taken a stand on things when they want to control things, for example, revenge porn where they have decided they want to take an editorial stance and they want to intervene and prevent it...

“At the moment they’ve refused to take a stance on Holocaust denial because they say it [goes against] their principles of neutrality.”

Mr Libson, who is played in the film Denial by actor Jack Lowden who starred in the BBC’s adaption of War and Peace, litigated for Professor Lipstadt for four years.

He spent three months in Mr Irving’s house, reading through the many volumes of his diaries.

In the film, the lawyers quote in court from an antisemitic and racist ditty which Irving would sing to his nine-month-old daughter.

Asked what he thought motivated Mr Irving, Mr Lipson said, “pure antisemitism” - a virus which has made him lie and discredit his own historical work.

“Pure antisemitism is an amazingly powerful hatred, an amazingly powerful driver, when he caught the bug of antisemitism, it’s what’s driven him for the rest of his life.

“It’s driven him to distort all of the historical stuff that he did, and abandon a craft he is quite proud of, at the alter of antisemitism.”

– To donate to World Jewish Relief, an international humanitarian charity, visit: worldjewishrelief.org.

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