Addressing an audience at the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Never Is Now summit, actor and comedian Sacha Baron Cohen delivered an unapologetic and brutal speech against social media companies, especially Facebook. He went on to collectively call all the companies the “greatest propaganda machine in history.”

Sacha Baron Cohen attacks Facebook; says Hitler could have get away with anti-Jewish ads

Sacha Baron Cohen at the Never Is Now Summit by the Anti-Defamation League. Image: YouTube/Anti-Defamation League

Widely popular for his iconic and satirical personas like Ali G, Borat, and Bruno, Cohen has been portraying bigotry and intolerance that’s rampant in the world via these roles. However, Cohen called out the big tech companies this time without going into any character, but himself.

“Today around the world, demagogues appeal to our worst instincts. Conspiracy theories once confined to the fringe are going mainstream. It’s as if the Age of Reason – the era of evidential argument – is ending, and now knowledge is delegitimized and scientific consensus is dismissed. Democracy, which depends on shared truths, is in retreat, and autocracy, which depends on shared lies, is on the march. Hate crimes are surging, as are murderous attacks on religious and ethnic minorities,” Cohen said.

Cohen was present at the summit to receive ADL’s International Leadership Award. He reminded the audience how his alter egos showed a mirror to the prevalence of antisemitism, homophobia and Islamophobia. At the centre of all these dangerous issues are a handful of internet companies, according to Cohen.

He asked the audience to put some thought on how Facebook, YouTube and Google, Twitter and other platforms give access to billions of people to the internet. And also how these platforms allow the spread of conspiracies, fake news and other potentially harmful content.

Cohen set sights on Facebook’s stance on not fact-checking political ads. He said, “If Facebook were around in the 1930s, it would have allowed Hitler to post 30-second ads on his “solution” to the “Jewish problem”. He pointed out that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had said that social media companies should “live up to their responsibilities” but doesn’t mention what should they do on failing its responsibilities.

Towards the end of his speech, Cohen suggested, “The ultimate aim of society should be to make sure that people are not targeted, not harassed and not murdered because of who they are, where they come from, who they love or how they pray.” He concluded his speech with a call to “prioritise truth over lies, tolerance over prejudice, empathy over indifference and experts over ignoramuses.”

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