Facebook removed ads attacking antifa (conglomerate of anti-fascist groups) and far-left groups that were part of the reelection campaign of United States President Donald Trump. The social network indicated on Thursday June 18 that these ads were withdrawn for violating its rules “against organized hatred”, since they showed an inverted red triangle, a symbol used by the Nazis to identify political prisoners in concentration camps.
“We removed these posts and ads for violating our policy against organized hatred,” a Facebook spokesperson said June 18. “Our policy prohibits the use of a hate group symbol used to identify political prisoners without showing the context that condemns or disputes the symbol.”
Removing the Trump campaign ad is a strange decision for Facebook, a company that has been criticized for its little action in the face of political discourse within the platform. However, the social network faces pressure to combat hate speech, and there are even currently civil rights groups inviting advertisers to boycott the social network in July.
Deleted ads first viewed by Media Matters and The Washington Post, were published on Wednesday, June 17 on the Facebook pages of President Trump, that of Vice President Mike Pence, on the Team Trump page, and on other pages. By the time they were removed, the ads had already achieved more than 800,000 impressions on the president’s page alone, according to data from the Facebook Ad Library.
In total, the Trump campaign ran 88 ads on Facebook that contained an inverted triangle, according to The Washington Post, which were accompanied by the text “Dangerous mobs from extreme left groups are running through our streets and causing absolute chaos”. The ads also encouraged people to “support the president and his decision to declare ANTIFA groups a terrorist organization.”
Antifa – short for antifascists – is a very general description of far-left militant groups confronting white and neo-Nazi supremacists at protests and other events. In May, Trump tweeted that the United States would classify such groups as terrorist organizations.
The Trump campaign defended its ads and indicated that the inverted triangle is a symbol commonly used by Antifa groups.
“The inverted red triangle is a symbol used by Antifa, which is why it was included in an announcement about Antifa,” Tim Murtaugh, director of communications for the Trump campaign, said in a statement. “We noticed that Facebook has an inverted red triangle emoji active, which looks exactly the same, so it’s funny that they only point to this ad,” added Murtaugh, who said the inverted red triangle is not included within the base of anti-defamation league hate symbol data
Facebook employees have internally debated whether the inverted red triangle violated the platform’s rules, he said. The Washington Post, newspaper that had access to the company’s internal correspondence. An executive – who was not named – said the red triangle was “common enough for it to be an emoji that is present on almost every keyboard, including Facebook,” but other employees said the social media assessment was “fundamentally broken”.
Conservatives have accused the social network of censoring his speeches, an accusation that has been denied by the company. Recently, Trump signed an executive order to make changes to section 230 of the federal law known as the Communications Decency Act (CDA), which exempts digital platforms from legal liability for content published by users, among other things. However, this order currently faces a lawsuit.