‘Freedom of speech is not freedom of reach’

Sacha Baron Cohen calls out Facebook's reprehensible stance on political advertising

Sacha Baron Cohen gave a speech to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) a few days ago and it is truly remarkable. He calls out social media companies – but particularly Facebook – on the role they are playing in spreading hate and lies.

The Guardian have put together some of the most poignant clips below:

Here’s a few other standout remarks from the transcript too:

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…

…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.  It’s why YouTube recommended videos by the conspiracist Alex Jones billions of times.  It’s why fake news outperforms real news, because studies show that lies spread faster than truth.  And it’s no surprise that the greatest propaganda machine in history has spread the oldest conspiracy theory in history—the lie that Jews are somehow dangerous.  As one headline put it, “Just Think What Goebbels Could Have Done with Facebook.”…

…Take the issue of political ads.  Fortunately, Twitter finally banned them, and Google is making changes, too.  But if you pay them, Facebook will run any “political” ad you want, even if it’s a lie.  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.

You can watch the full speech below or read it here: