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'Greatest propaganda machine in history': Sacha Baron Cohen launches scathing attack on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google

Actor and comedian criticised platforms for political advertising

Ellie Harrison
Friday 22 November 2019 10:56 GMT
Sacha Baron Cohen launches scathing attack on social media companies

Sacha Baron Cohen has launched a scathing attack on social media giants including Facebook and Twitter, calling them “the greatest propaganda machine in history”.

The actor and comedian used his ADL International Leadership Award acceptance speech on Thursday (21 November) to call out the companies for amplifying hatred and violence in society.

“All this hate and violence is being facilitated by a handful of internet companies that amount to the greatest propaganda machine in history,” he told the audience in New York.

“Think about it. Facebook, YouTube and Google, Twitter and others – they reach billions of people. The algorithms these platforms depend on deliberately amplify the type of content that keeps users engaged – stories that appeal to our baser instincts and that trigger outrage and fear.”

Baron Cohen also condemned Facebook for running political adverts without fact-checking.

“If you pay them, Facebook will run any ‘political’ ad you want, even if it’s a lie,” he 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’.

“So here’s a good standard and practice: Facebook, start fact-checking political ads before you run them, stop micro-targeted lies immediately, and when the ads are false, give back the money and don’t publish them.”

Baron Cohen’s comments come after The Social Network writer Aaron Sorkin wrote a furious open letter to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, accusing him of pumping out “crazy lies” following his refusal to ban political advertising on the platform.

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