WASHINGTON – Facebook moved Thursday to remove ads from President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign that the company said violated its policies on “organized hate” and were a “banned hate group’s symbol.”
The ads called on the president’s supporters to sign a petition and “stand with President Trump against ANTIFA,” referring to the name for loosely affiliated, left-leaning anti-racist groups that the president has blamed for violence in recent nationwide protests against police brutality and racial discrimination.
The image attached to the ad was a downward-pointing red triangle, which Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt noted on Twitter was the symbol the Nazis used to identify political victims in concentration camps.
“Using it to attack political opponents is highly offensive. @POTUS’ campaign needs to learn its history, as ignorance is no excuse for using Nazi-related symbols,” he wrote on Twitter.
“We removed these posts and ads for violating our policy against organized hate. Our policy prohibits using a banned hate group’s symbol to identify political prisoners without the context that condemns or discusses the symbol,” Facebook spokesperson Ruchika Budhraja told USA TODAY in a statement.
By the time Facebook removed the ads, they had registered thousands of impressions across the country, running on the “Team Trump” page, the Trump Facebook page, and the Facebook page for Vice President Mike Pence, according to the Facebook Ad Library.
Trump campaign spokesperson Tim Murtaugh defended the ad, saying the ad included a “symbol used by Antifa” and noted Facebook included a red triangle emoji.
“The image is also not included in the Anti-Defamation League’s database of symbols of hate. But it is ironic that it took a Trump ad to force the media to implicitly concede that Antifa is a hate group,” Murtaugh wrote.
Greenblatt told USA TODAY the database did not include the symbol because their database tracked symbols currently in use by extremist groups, rather than “historical Nazi symbols” like the red triangle.
“There have been some antifa who have used the red triangle, though it is not a particularly common antifa symbol,” Greenblatt said.
Progressive Jewish advocacy group Bend the Arc slammed the Trump campaign for its use of the symbol.
“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,” the advocacy group wrote on Twitter.
Progressive advocacy group Media Matters for America, which had first noted the ads, called the approval of the ads part of a “pattern” of “alarming” behavior by Facebook.
“Yet again we see another example where Facebook can’t even meet the bare minimum standards they set for themselves — either because they’re incapable or because they’re in cahoots. Either way, the pattern is alarming,” Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters for America said in a statement.