The Trump ads in question blasted “Dangerous MOBS of far-left groups,” which it claimed are “running through our streets and causing absolute mayhem.” The ads featured an upside-down triangle, which anti-hate groups said was strikingly similar to notorious Nazi symbols denoting political prisoners in World War II concentration camps. Facebook’s move to pull down the posts was first reported by the Washington Post.
“We removed these posts and ads for violating our policy against organized hate,” a Facebook spokesperson confirmed to Variety. “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 ads on Facebook also called on his followers to “stand with your President and declare ANTIFA a Terrorist Organization.” The FBI has said there is no evidence that “Antifa” — shorthand for the decentralized anti-fascist political movement in the U.S. — organized protests over racial injustice that have swept across the country after the police killing of Minneapolis man George Floyd.
Progressive watchdog group Media Matters called out the Trump 2020 ads Thursday on Twitter, claiming the president’s campaign ran 88 individual ads on Facebook with the inverted red triangle — which it said is “an infamous Nazi symbol.”
— Media Matters (@mmfa) June 18, 2020
In response, the Trump campaign claimed that the down-pointing red triangle is “a symbol widely used by Antifa.” Some anti-fascist groups have adopted the Nazi symbol, but it is not widely part of the American Antifa movement, Rutgers historian Mark Bray told the New York Times. The Trump campaign also said the upside-down triangle isn’t included in the Anti-Defamation League’s Hate Symbols Database; according to the ADL, the database comprises symbols associated with present-day hate groups, not historical Nazi imagery.
ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement on Twitter that Nazis used “red triangles to identify their 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.”
Over the past three weeks, Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg have sustained heavy criticized — from both inside and outside the company — for deciding to take no action on inflammatory comments Trump made May 29 about protesters in Minneapolis that were posted to Facebook and Instagram.
In those posts, Trump called Minneapolis demonstrators “THUGS” and said about the unrest in the wake of Floyd’s murder, “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!” Twitter placed a warning label in front of the same post, saying it glorified violence.
Zuckerberg originally said the Trump posts with the “looting and shooting” phrase — which has a racist legacy in the context of police brutality — did not violate Facebook’s policy against inciting violence and that the company wanted to err on the side of allowing political speech. The CEO one week later said Facebook would be reviewing its content-moderation policies in the wake of the backlash.