Sacha Baron Cohen has gone viral again. While it’s not the first time the Borat star has become a trending topic, it is the first time he’s gone viral speaking out on a grave issue. In a nearly 30-minute speech at the Anti-Defamation League, Cohen called out Silicon Valley’s wealthiest CEOs for their tireless pursuit of money, instead of the common good.
Sacha Baron Cohen calls out Facebook, Twitter and Google leaders
Cohen is primarily thought of as a comedian, but when you look at his resume, his work is about a lot more than making people laugh. Cohen has, in many ways, revealed the very nature of bigotry. Speaking at the ADL, Cohen admitted that much of his comedy is juvenile. Yet, there is something to be learned from it. Cohen noted that as his characters, Borat and Bruno, he saw how different lifestyles, religious beliefs, and backgrounds were discriminated against. In fact, Cohen notes that the violence that is possible by the mere presence of a different lifestyle is terrifying.
Sacha Baron Cohen attends the 71st Emmy Awards
Cohen continued his speech, stating that social media is facilitating a dangerous surge in hate crimes, because of its connection to fake news. The Guardian offered a transcript of the 25-minute monologue. In it, Cohen stated, “What do all these dangerous trends have in common? I’m just a comedian and an actor, not a scholar. But one thing is pretty clear to me. All this hate and violence is being facilitated by a handful of internet companies that amount to the greatest propaganda machine in history.”
While he specifically called out Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, Cohen didn’t just pinpoint the father of social media. He noted how Twitter, Google, and other social platforms play into the growing issue of fake news. Cohen took the time to mention YouTube’s recent algorithm issues. He noted how often Alex Jones, the famed conspiracy theorist, is served up to viewers, too.
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While the term “fake news” is relatively new, it’s not exactly a new problem. The advent of the internet has just given fake news the platform it needed to grow and propagate. With billions of people connected to social media, in some way or another, it is the most comprehensive news sharing platform in the world. With great power, however, comes great responsibility. Cohen accused the leaders of these juggernauts of failing to harness the power of their platforms. Perhaps they, themselves, aren’t disseminating fake news, but they are allowing it to run rampant on the platforms they created.
Cohen’s statements seem to be correct. A group of data scientists at MIT analyzed news stories that were shared via Twitter. The study found that fake news spread quickly and had greater reach than legitimate news, according to The Atlantic. The scientists ended their report by suggesting that the “information ecosystem” must be redesigned to cut down on the spread of fake news.
Cohen’s beliefs about what needs to be done fall in line correctly with the research done by MIT. He concluded his speech by stating, ““Voltaire was right. Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities — and social media lets authoritarians push absurdities to billions of people.”