Facebook removes Trump ads for violating 'organized hate' policy

The identical ads featured an upside-down red triangle, a symbol used by the Nazi party in World War II to identify political dissidents in concentration camps.
Image: Facebook's founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at the Viva Tech start-up and technology summit in Paris
Facebook's founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at a technology summit in Paris on May 24, 2018.Charles Platiau / Reuters file

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By Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny

Facebook removed 88 ads Thursday posted by the accounts of President Donald Trump, the Trump campaign and Vice President Mike Pence that the social media giant said were “violating our policy against organized hate.”

All of the identical ads featured an upside-down red triangle, a symbol used by the Nazi party in World War II to identify political dissidents in concentration camps. The ads caught the attention of some Twitter users Thursday who pointed out the symbol's historical significance.

A Facebook spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement that the posts violated the company's policies.

"Our policy prohibits using a banned hate group's symbol to identify political prisoners without the context that condemns or discusses the symbol," the spokesperson wrote.

Other ads with identical language featured different images including exclamation points and stop signs. Those ads are still visible in the Facebook ad library.

The ads were posted from three accounts: the president’s official account, the vice president’s official account and the official Trump campaign account, according to the Facebook ad library.

The ads were initially posted on June 17. Around 1 a.m. ET the next morning, Bend the Arc, a progressive Jewish advocacy group, called out the ads as “campaigning for reelection using a Nazi concentration camp symbol,” in a tweet which quickly went viral with 14,000 retweets.

A Twitter account for the Trump campaign said the image was not in the Anti-Defamation League's Hate Symbols Database and claimed an upside-down red triangle was “widely used by antifa.”

The account directed an NBC News reporter to a T-shirt on which the word “ANTIFA” is written across an upside-down red triangle as proof. The shirt was created by a user from Spain on a website in which anyone can upload their own T-shirt design.

Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the Trump campaign, maintained that antifa used an "inverted red triangle" and that Facebook has an emoji of the symbol.

"We would note that Facebook still has an inverted red triangle emoji in use, which looks exactly the same, so it’s curious that they would target only this ad," Murtaugh said in an emailed statement.

The triangle is otherwise not common among antifa iconography, which usually features a red and black flag or three arrows.

The removed ads warned "dangerous MOBS of far-left groups are running through our streets and causing absolute mayhem."

The ad aims to broaden Trump’s mailing list by soliciting contact information on his official site.

"Please add your name IMMEDIATELY to stand with your President and his decision to declare ANTIFA a Terrorist Organization,” it read.

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said the Trump campaign should take more caution with the symbols it uses.

"Whether aware of the history or meaning, for the Trump campaign to use a symbol – one which is practically identical to that used by the Nazi regime to classify political prisoners in concentration camps -- to attack his opponents is offensive and deeply troubling," Greenblatt said in an email.

CORRECTION (June 18, 2020, 3:40 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated when the ads later removed by Facebook were posted. They were posted on June 17, not July 17.

Jo Ling Kent contributed.