Sacha Baron Cohen has slammed Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google, accusing the tech giants of facilitating “hate and violence”.
Accepting the International Leadership Award at the Anti-Defamation League’s Never is Now summit on anti-semitism and hate Thursday (US time), the actor and comedian used a wide-ranging speech to warn of a “handful of internet companies that amount to the greatest propaganda machine in history”.
Baron Cohen attacked Mark Zuckerberg’s defence of Facebook as a champion of “free expression”.
He took particular aim at the Facebook CEO’s recent address at Georgetown University.
“If you pay them, Facebook will run any ‘political’ ad you want, even if it’s a lie,” Baron Cohen said.
“And they’ll even help you micro-target those lies to their users for maximum effect. Under this twisted logic, if Facebook were around in the 1930s, it would have allowed Hitler to post 30-second ads on his ‘solution’ to the ‘Jewish problem’.”
Baron Cohen did acknowledge the apparent incongruity of being the man behind the anti-semitic Kazakh character Borat accepting his award.
“As a comedian, I’ve tried to use my characters to get people to let down their guard and reveal what they actually believe, including their own prejudice,” he said.
Suggesting social media platforms be subject to the same regulations that most other media are obliged to follow, Baron Cohen says internet companies should be held accountable for the harm their products cause.
“It only seems fair to say to Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, ‘Your product is defective, you are obliged to fix it no matter how much it costs and no matter how many moderators you need to employ.’ ”
Baron Cohen dedicated much of his focus to Mr Zuckerberg, the man he regards as bearing greatest culpability, and for advancing arguments that are “ludicrous”.
“It’s like we’re living in the Roman Empire, and Mark Zuckerberg is Caesar,” he said at one point.
“At least that would explain his haircut.”