Sacha Baron Cohen Blasts Social Media Sites for Not Barring Russian State TV: 'Putin's Propaganda'

The Borat star called out the heads of Facebook, Twitter, Google and YouTube in a statement on social media

Sacha Baron Cohen
Photo: Rick Rycroft-Pool/Getty Images

Sacha Baron Cohen is speaking his mind.

The 50-year-old actor called out some of the world's most-used social media platforms and their leaders on Twitter Wednesday for "profiting off Putin's propaganda" amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He slammed the sites for not blocking Russia's state TV network.

Cohen began by tagging the heads of Facebook, Twitter, Google and YouTube — who are Mark Zuckerberg, Parag Agrawal, Sundar Pichai and Susan Wojcicki, respectively — and sharing a black and white photo of the CEOs.

"Putin just bombed a children's hospital, but @Facebook, @instagram @Twitter & @YouTube are still showing Russia's state-run RT," Cohen wrote, referring to the Russian media network.

"Why are you profiting off Putin's propaganda?!" the Borat star continued. "Remove Russia RT from your platforms NOW!"

A rep for each of the social media leaders, as well as their respective companies, did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

Russia's attack on Ukraine continues after their forces launched a large-scale invasion on Feb. 24 — the first major land conflict in Europe in decades. Details of the fighting change by the day, but hundreds of civilians have already been reported dead or wounded, including children. More than a million Ukrainians have also fled, the United Nations says.

The invasion, ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, has drawn condemnation around the world and increasingly severe economic sanctions against Russia. With NATO forces massing in the region around Ukraine, various countries have also pledged aid or military support to the resistance.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called for peace talks — so far unsuccessful — while urging his country to fight back. Putin, 69, insists Ukraine has historic ties to Russia and that he is acting in the best security interests of his country.

Zelenskyy, 44, has vowed not to bend. "Nobody is going to break us, we're strong, we're Ukrainians," he told the European Union in a speech in the early days of the fighting, adding, "Life will win over death. And light will win over darkness."

Ukraine voices gallery

Speaking with Variety in June 2021, Cohen opened up about social media and the power it has, as well as the threat it can pose.

"Authoritarian regimes rely on shared lies, democracies rely on a system of shared facts. People have their own opinions about that system of shared facts," Cohen said. "Social media is predisposed to spread lies and conspiracy theories, while the truth is quite boring and dull. So people don't want to wait for the truth and they don't want to share the truth."

Cohen — who helped form the Stop Hate for Profit coalition, per the outlet — also panned social media platforms' responses that cracking down on certain subjects would violate free speech.

"[They] tend to keep on spouting the phrase 'freedom of speech' without any real understanding of the purpose of freedom of speech and the definition of freedom of speech or that the United States has an exceptional view of freedom of speech that came about because of its exceptional history," he explained. "There are limits to freedom of speech in Europe that came about because of the effect of Nazism. There is a form of ideological imperialism whereby the views of a handful of billionaires in Silicon Valley is imposed on the entire world."

The Trial of the Chicago 7 star similarly argued that social media companies should utilize their resources and hire digital fact-checkers and monitors to watch over their platforms. "These are trillion-dollar companies," he said. "They're run by some of the richest people in the world."

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