Actor and comedian Sacha Baron Cohen hasn’t given up on publicly attacking Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. On Wednesday, Cohen tweeted a Guardian report on President Donald Trump’s advertising campaign on Facebook. Using the #MarkZuckeberg hashtag, Cohen tweeted “history will judge you harshly — if we still have historians after you help destroy democracy!”
Terrifying. 218,000 political ads on Facebook—many with lies and hate – seen by voters perhaps 1.3 BILLION times. And Facebook profits. #MarkZuckerberg, history will judge you harshly – if we still have historians after you help destroy democracy!https://t.co/6ciFqVBy3E— Sacha Baron Cohen (@SachaBaronCohen) January 29, 2020
The report Cohen looked at the Trump campaign’s activity on Facebook during the course of a year. Julia Carrie Wong at the Guardian reported that Trump spent nearly $20 million on 218,000 ads in 2019. The Trump campaign outspent every Democratic candidate, spending more than double every other candidate’s Facebook ads, with the exception of Tom Steyer. Trump also had more than double the number of ads of the next-highest candidate, Pete Buttigieg.
More than any other issue, criticisms of the media dominated Trump’s ads, taking up nearly 20% of the total, according to the Guardian. Using a Facebook tool that lets anyone see ads, who they’re paid for, and some information about whom they target, the paper found that “among the ads were some of the images and videos that made front-page news for their xenophobic, fear-mongering, vitriolic and outright false rhetoric.” For example, the campaign ran thousands of ads referring to Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas.”
Cohen has been a vocal critic of big tech, and of Zuckerberg in particular. In a November speech at the Anti-Defamation League, the actor blasted social media as a platform that spreads hate speech and propaganda. He had a few digs at Facebook, calling Zuckerberg’s explanation that limiting speech would violate people’s right to free speech as “ludicrous.” He said: “This is not about limiting anyone’s free speech. This is about giving people, including some of the most reprehensible people on earth, the biggest platform in history to reach a third of the planet. Freedom of speech is not freedom of reach.”
He also criticized Facebook’s controversial decision not to fact-check political ads, saying “if you pay them, Facebook will run any political ad you want, even if it’s a lie.”
Facebook responded to Cohen’s criticisms in November, but many found the response lacking. Facebook accused Cohen of misrepresenting its policies around hate speech, but others were quick to find examples of the company not living up to its own standard, from White Nationalist groups, to gun-permit scams, to posts inciting violence in Myanmar on the platform.
Facebook did not immediately respond to request for comment on this story.
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