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Golden Globes highlight tension between big tech and Hollywood

Melody Hahm
Senior Writer

Sunday night’s Golden Globes kicked off the splashy 2020 awards season. Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” took home three awards. Awkwafina became the first Asian-American woman to win best actress at the Golden Globes for “The Farewell.” And HBO’s “Succession” (T) and Amazon’s (AMZN) “Fleabag” each snagged two awards. 

But one of the most memorable moments happened before the first award was even presented. Fifth-time host Ricky Gervais, a British stand-up comedian known for “The Office,” finished his opening monologue with a scathing critique of tech giants that have also become players in Hollywood. 

“Apple roared into the TV game with ‘The Morning Show,’ a superb drama about the importance of dignity and doing the right thing, made by a company that runs sweatshops in China. Well, you say you’re woke but the companies you work for in China — unbelievable. Apple, Amazon, Disney. If ISIS started a streaming service you’d call your agent, wouldn’t you?” he said, drawing scattered, awkward laughter from the crowd. (While Disney (DIS) did launch its own streaming service last year, it is not seen as a tech company). 

77th Golden Globe Awards - Arrivals - Beverly Hills, California, U.S., January 5, 2020 - Ricky Gervais and Jane Fallon. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

“So if you do win an award tonight, don’t use it as a platform to make a political speech. You’re in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg,” he said, referring to the 17-year-old known for skipping school to protest climate change.

“So if you win, come up, accept your little award, thank your agent, and your God and f... off, OK? It’s already three hours long,” he added, before transitioning into the award categories. As of Monday afternoon, Gervais’ monologue was the No. 1 trending video on YouTube.

Big tech has gone from having a powerful presence on our computers and phones to dominating Hollywood, catapulting executives into the spotlight. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos became a fixture at awards shows. Apple CEO Tim Cook was sitting next to Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon on Sunday at the Golden Globes. Hollywood stars, known for their activism surrounding issues like climate change and pro-choice efforts, might be more quiet about tech as they are now relying on them for their paychecks. 

77th Golden Globe Awards - Arrivals - Beverly Hills, California, U.S., January 5, 2020 - Apple CEO Tim Cook . Picture taken January 5, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Blake

For its part, Apple, which manufactures most of its products in China, has been looking to diversify its supply chain amid the U.S. trade war with the world’s largest exporter in the world. The company’s manufacturing supply chain has employed 3 million people. Apple purports that 96% of those employees are in “compliance with Apple Working Hours Standards across all work weeks,” according to its latest  “Supplier Responsibility” report

Apple’s Cook has attempted to distance Apple and his leadership from the scrutiny and negative attention the entire industry has received from politicians and consumers alike. In particular, Apple has called out other tech companies for not doing enough to stop hate speech on their platforms or to protect users’ privacy. 

Later in the ceremony, another British comedian — Sacha Baron Cohen, known for his role as “Borat” — also took the opportunity to roast big tech. But he focused all his attention on Facebook (FB) founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. 

“The hero of this next movie is a naive, misguided child who spreads Nazi propaganda and only has imaginary friends. His name is Mark Zuckerberg,” he said during the awards show. 

He then quipped, “Sorry, sorry. This is an old intro for ‘The Social Network.’ I’m actually talking about ‘Jojo Rabbit.’ It’s nominated for two Golden Globes and it’s directed by its star, the brilliant and groundbreaking Taika Waititi.” 

This isn’t Cohen’s first time using a public platform to voice the concerns over Facebook. Cohen, who created and starred in the boundary-pushing satirical show “Who is America?” has been particularly vocal about his distaste for Facebook and for Zuckerberg’s leadership. 

Last November, Cohen was awarded the Anti-Defamation League’s 2019 International Leadership award. ADL is a non-governmental organization that combats anti-semitism and hate speech. During his acceptance speech, he pummeled Zuckerberg for defending Facebook’s inaction when it comes to taking down hate speech, misinformation and blatant lies — particularly pertaining to Facebook’s decision not to fact check political ads.

Claiming that “all this hate and violence is being facilitated by a handful of internet companies that amount to the greatest propaganda machine in history,” Cohen 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.”

“Sadly, there will always be racists, misogynists, anti-Semites and child abusers. But I think we could all agree that we should not be giving bigots and pedophiles a free platform to amplify their views and target their victims,” he added.

Melody Hahm is Yahoo Finance’s west coast correspondent, covering entrepreneurship, technology and culture. Follow her on Twitter 

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