The social media giant had been facing increased pressure to take a stronger stance against the president’s hateful rhetoric
Facebook has removed a number of posts and ads run by Donald Trump’s re-election campaign that featured a symbol used by the Nazis for violating its “policy against organized hate”.
The takedown on Thursday came amid increasing pressure on Facebook from civil rights leaders, Democratic politicians, and the company’s own employees to take a stronger stance against the president’s ugly and at times violent and hateful rhetoric on the platform, though it is not the first time that Facebook has removed Trump campaign ads for violating policies.
The now-removed ads featured an image of an inverted red triangle with a black border and the message: “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 … Please add your name IMMEDIATELY to stand with your President and his decision to declare ANTIFA a Terrorist Organization.”
Trump and his campaign have repeatedly made false assertions about “antifa”, a term that refers to loose networks of leftwing activists opposed to fascism and white nationalism. There appears to be no evidence that antifa organizations were involved in incidences of rioting during the recent protests against the alleged police murder of George Floyd.
The inverted red triangle was used by the Nazis to identify political prisoners in concentration camps during the Holocaust.
Bend the Arc, a progressive Jewish activist organization, drew attention to the ads on Twitter on on Wednesday, writing: “The President of the United States is campaigning for re-election using a Nazi concentration camp symbol … Trump & the RNC are using it to smear millions of protestors. Their masks are off.”
The President of the United States is campaigning for reelection using a Nazi concentration camp symbol.
Nazis used the red triangle to mark political prisoners and people who rescued Jews.
Trump & the RNC are using it to smear millions of protestors.
Their masks are off. pic.twitter.com/UzmzDaRBup
— Bend the Arc: Jewish Action (@jewishaction) June 18, 2020
“Using it to attack political opponents is highly offensive,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said of the symbol on Twitter. “[The president’s] campaign needs to learn its history, as ignorance is no excuse for using Nazi-related symbols.”
The posts appeared both as organic and paid content, and were published by Trump’s Facebook page as well as his running mate Mike Pence’s account.
“We removed these posts and ads for violating our policy against organized hate,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. “Our policy prohibits using a banned hate group’s symbol to identify political prisoners without the context that condemns or discusses the symbol.”
The Trump campaign claimed on Twitter that the inverted triangle was “a symbol widely used by Antifa”, presenting as evidence a link to German e-commerce t-shirt printing company, Spreadshirt, where a variety of products are available for sale with an “antifa” logo that does use the inverted triangle.
The t-shirt site notwithstanding, the standard iconography associated with antifa includes an image of two flags, often one red and one black, or an image of three arrows pointing down and to the left – a symbol that was historically associated with the resistance to Nazism.
This is not the first time that Facebook has removed Trump campaign ads for violating its content rules. In 2018, the company removed a racist and xenophobic ad about migrant caravans that the company said violated its rules against “sensational content”. CNN had refused to run the ad on the grounds that it was racist, prompting other television networks and Facebook to block the ad as well.
In March, Facebook removed a series of misleading ads by the Trump campaign over concerns that they would interfere with the census. The ads asked supporters to click a link to take a campaign survey labeled an “official congressional district census”. The ads were run in the weeks leading up to the US’s decennial census, which was being conducted partially online for the first time in 2020, prompting concern that the ads could lead to confusion about the real census.
Facebook has faced criticism over its hands-off approach to Trump’s behavior on its platform for years, but the pressure intensified in late May when Trump threatened violence against participants in the George Floyd protests by using a phrase coined by a racist 1960s police chief: “when the looting starts the shooting starts”.
Though Twitter took action against Trump’s statement, noting its potential to incite violence, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the identical post was not against Facebook’s rules because the company has a policy to allow state actors to threaten state violence. Zuckerberg’s rationale has been excoriated by civil rights leaders and many of his own employees, some of whom staged a rare public show of dissent with a “virtual walkout”.
On Wednesday, a number of American civil rights groups, including the NAACP, the ADL and Color of Change, launched a campaign calling for major advertisers to pull their business from Facebook.
“We have been continually disappointed and stunned by Mark Zuckerberg’s commitment to protecting white supremacy, voter suppression and outright lies on Facebook,” said Rashad Robinson, the president of Color of Change, in a statement. “As corporations take a stand against racism in our society, they should consider how their advertising dollars support Facebook making Black people less safe online.”
Source: The Guardian