Facebook Pulls Trump Campaign Ad for Hate Speech – But for Some, the Damage has Been Done

This red triangle, incorrectly attributed to Antifa by the campaign, was actually used by Nazis to identify prisoners.

Facebook today removed a paid post by President Trump, Vice President Pence, and the “Team Trump” campaign page – because the post featured a Nazi symbol. 

The post, which violated Facebook’s terms of service regarding organized hate speech, prominently featured a red triangle. While Tim Murtaugh, spokesperson for the Trump campaign, asserted that “the red triangle is an antifa symbol,” the reality could not be further from the truth. 

According to Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, it was actually Nazis who used this symbol to mark political prisoners – and those who tried to rescue Jewish people. 

The ad, which is still viewable on Facebook’s Ad Library, does not even attempt to make any putative connection between the symbol and the contents of the post. Instead, the post reads: 

Dangerous MOBS of far-left groups are running through our streets and causing absolute mayhem. They are DESTROYING our cities and rioting – it’s absolute madness.

“It’s important that EVERY American comes together at a time like this to send a united message that we will not stand for their radical actions any longer. We’re calling on YOU to make a public statement and add your name to stand with President Trump against ANTIFA.

“Please add your name IMMEDIATELY to stand with your President and his decision to declare ANTIFA a Terrorist Organization.”

The “Team Trump” advertisement that was pulled from Facebook. Courtesy of Facebook’s Ad Library.

According to Media Matters for America, the campaign ran 88 ads using the same red triangle. Since June 3, the Trump campaign has run at least 2,110 advertisements using generic anti-antifa language. 

Despite this, Facebook does not have a good history of enforcing its own policies with Trump advertisements. Last year, Facebook ran 2,200 ads referring to immigration as an “invasion.” Despite clearly violating their own advertising policies, Facebook allowed all of them to remain up. Facebook also allowed the campaign to run at least 529 ads with false claims of voter fraud

Historian Jacob S. Elder, speaking to The Washington Post, called the imagery “highly problematic.” 

The red triangle was used to identify prisoners of Nazi occupation. Photo by Adam Jones, Ph.D. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Perhaps this particular ad was simply so offensive that Facebook finally put its foot down – but for many, the damage has already been done.

Yesterday, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the NAACP, and a host of other civil rights groups launched their #StopHateforProfit campaign, citing “Facebook’s long history of allowing racist, violent and verifiably false content to run rampant on its platform.”

“Facebook has allowed some of the worst elements of society into our homes and lives,” said Joseph Greenblatt, ADL CEO.

Rashad Robinson, President of Color of Change, added that the people “have been continually disappointed and stunned by Mark Zuckerberg’s commitment to protecting white supremacy, voter suppression, and outright lies on Facebook. 

Facebook makes $70 billion each year in advertising, according to the campaign’s advertisement in the Los Angeles Times

The #StopHateforProfit announced its campaign with this June 17, 2020 advertisement in the Los Angeles Times. Courtesy of the ADL.

Activists hope to call on large corporate advertisers to put pressure on Facebook to stop the spread of hate. Today’s decision by Facebook could signify a step in that direction. 

But for those who have seen their loved ones radicalized, who have been lied to by political ads, who have been harassed, doxxed, and subjected to hate speech with impunity — it may be too little, too late.

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