Sacha Baron Cohen absolutely eviscerated Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook on Thursday night when he launched into a tirade against social media platforms during a speech given to the Anti-Defamation League. In his (extremely on-brand) annihilation, Cohen made it abundantly clear he does not think Facebook is "very nice.”
The comedian behind Borat, Ali G, and Who Is America? is known to publicly troll people, but this time, Cohen was not joking around. While receiving an award for international leadership, Cohen delivered a scathing critique of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, and other tech giants. He went so far as to call them “the greatest propaganda machine in history.”
During Cohen’s impassioned speech, he blamed Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for helping fringe conspiracy theories that were once confined to the dark corners of the internet come into mainstream attention.”It’s actually quite shocking how easy it is to turn conspiracy thinking into violence,” he said.
Cohen also called out the social media giants for facilitating a rise in hate crimes and deadly attacks against religious and ethnic minorities. Providing a historical analogy, Cohen said that if Facebook existed in the 1930s, it would have allowed Hitler to post ads on his “solution” to the “Jewish problem.”
But, what was his aim here? The frustrated comedian used his platform to demand more tech regulation and a fundamental rethinking of social media, noting that current tools give “some of the most reprehensible people on earth the biggest platform in history.” The comedian admonished social media giants for not doing enough to counter the racism and bigotry spreading on their platforms. “These are the richest companies in the world, and they have the best engineers in the world. They could fix these problems if they wanted to.”
His speech absolutely baited Twitter fans, who applauded Cohen for ripping into social media giants while maintaining the humour and wit his fans have come to expect.
With the 2020 election on the horizon, Cohen is one in a chorus of activists and politicians calling for tighter regulation on social media platforms. But, the unfortunate reality is that unwieldy hate speech and misinformation is likely to continue proliferating on Facebook as the company is notoriously opaque about everything from its algorithm to Zuckerberg’s secret dinners with Donald Trump.