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Sacha Baron Cohen: 'Facebook would have let Hitler run political adverts'

Sacha Baron Cohen
Sacha Baron Cohen
By Chris HarrisAFP
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British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen took aim at social media companies accusing them of pushing "absurdities to billions of people".


Adolf Hitler could have published anti-Semitic adverts on Facebook if social media had existed in the 1930s, it’s been claimed.

British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, best known for his Ali G character, made the allegation at a conference in New York.

“If you pay them, Facebook will run any political ad you want, even if it's a lie,” said Baron Cohen. “Under this twisted logic, if Facebook were around in the 1930s, it would have allowed Hitler to publish 30-second ads on his ‘solution’ to the ‘Jewish problem'.”

Facebook denied the accusations saying it bans hate speech on its platform.

Baron Cohen, speaking at the Anti-Defamation League's Never Is Now summit, didn’t just focus on Mark Zuckerberg’s company.

He also took aim at Google, Twitter and YouTube, accusing them of pushing "absurdities to billions of people".

"Democracy, which depends on shared truths, is in retreat, and autocracy which depends on shared lies is on the march,” he said. “Hate crimes are surging as are murderous attacks on religious and ethnic minorities.

“Now, what do all these dangerous trends have in common?

“I'm just a comedian and an actor. I'm 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."

Baron Cohen’s broadside comes after Twitter announced in October that it would stop political advertising on its platform.

On Wednesday, Google said it was tightening its rules on political advertising. This includes moves to ban the publication of messages clearly false or prevent ultra-specific targeting of voters.

Facebook is arguably one of the more lenient players. It said in September that it would not filter political adverts, believing that, in general, it was interesting for internet users to see them.

Nevertheless, the social network has strengthened its transparency rules for its political messages so that the advertiser at the origin of the publicity is clearly identified.

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