Sacha Baron Cohen hits out at social media platforms for not banning ‘Russian propaganda’ TV

‘Your CEOs spread Putin’s lies on Russia’s RT as he bombs pregnant women’

Annabel Nugent
Friday 11 March 2022 09:21
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Mariupol maternity hospital lays in ruins after Russian airstrike

Sacha Baron Cohen has hit out at social media sites for failing to ban “Russian propaganda” TV.

The Borat star has shared his outrage after discovering that the Russian TV network RT is still available to watch on some social media platforms despite the country’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

In a tweet on Thursday (10 March), Cohen called out the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter, Google and YouTube – Mark Zuckerberg, Parag Agrawal, Sundar Pichai, and Susan Wojcick, respectively – and urged them to take action.

The actor – who has long been an outspoken critic of social media – wrote: “Putin just bombed a children’s hospital, but @Facebook, @Instagram, @Twitter & @YouTube are still showing Russia’s state-run RT.

“Why are you profiting off Putin’s propaganda?! Remove Russia RT from your platforms NOW!”

Russia has been widely criticised for an airstrike that destroyed a maternity hospital in the besieged city of Mariupol.

Facebook and Twitter have removed posts from Russia’s UK Embassy claiming that the bombing was faked. One of the removed tweets quoted unfounded claims from Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov that the hospital was “non-operational” and being used by Ukrainian armed forces and “radicals”.

The airstrike took place during an agreed ceasefire period that was meant to allow civilians to evacuate the surrounded southeastern city, where officials say some 400,000 people are being held “hostage” by Russian forces.

In another tweet, Cohen directly addressed the employees of the companies, writing: “You joined tech to change the world, but your CEOs spread Putin’s lies on Russia’s RT as he bombs pregnant women.

“We beg you – tell Mark, @paraga, @sundarpichai, @susanwojcicki #RemoveRT #StopPutinsLies. The world will thank you!”

The Independent has contacted representatives of Google, Twitter and YouTube for comment.

In a statement issued to The Independent, Meta – the new rebrand of Facebook, which also owns Instagram – said that: “State controlled media, like other publishers, are eligible for fact-checking, and our third-party fact-checking partners can and do rate their content.”

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The company announced last week (27 February) that following requests from the Ukrainian government, Meta has “restricted access to several accounts in Ukraine, including those belonging to some Russian state media organisation”.

The statement continued to address Meta’s decision to label content from Russia state-controlled media, stating: “We provide greater transparency on accounts from state-controlled media outlets, including Russian-based RT and Sputnik, because they combine the influence of a media organisation with the strategic backing of a state, and we believe people should know if the news they read is coming from a publication that may be under the influence of a government.” Sputnik is a Russian state-owned news agency.

Meta has said that they are “globally demoting content” of Facebook Pages and Instagram accounts from Russian state-controlled media outlets in order to make them harder to find.

“We are prohibiting ads from Russian state media and demonetising their accounts,” added the spokesperson.

You can follow The Independent’s live-blog of Russia’s attack on Ukraine here.

The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered. To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here. To sign the petition click here. If you would like to donate then please click here for our GoFundMe page.

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