Facebook said on Thursday that it had taken down posts and advertising from Donald Trump’s re-election campaign that violate its policy against organised hate, in a move that will irk the US president’s team but assuage activists who have called for more policing on the platform.
The world’s largest social media group said it had removed numerous posts and adverts after the non-profit group Media Matters noted that some of the ads featured an inverted triangle — a Nazi symbol used to mark political prisoners in concentration camps.
The posts in question stated that “dangerous mobs of far-left groups are running through our streets and causing absolute mayhem”, and called on users to sign a petition to declare antifa, the far-left political movement whose name is shorthand for “anti-fascist”, a terror organisation.
Mr Trump has recently claimed that antifa has been responsible for stirring violence at protests sparked by the police killing last month of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Facebook 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.”
Media Matters said the inverted triangle was a symbol used by Nazis to mark political prisoners in concentration camps © FACEBOOK/AFP via Getty Images
The Trump campaign said the inverted red triangle symbol was a symbol that antifa used, which is why it was included in the adverts.
“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,” Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the Trump campaign, said in a statement.
He added that it was “ironic that it took a Trump ad to force the media to implicitly concede that antifa is a hate group”.
Facebook has faced growing calls — from some of its employees, as well as activists — to police content more closely after it refused to place warnings on several posts by Mr Trump that critics argued incited hate.
By contrast, smaller rival Twitter has added warnings to several identical posts by Mr Trump on their platform in recent weeks, including one as the protests were ongoing that the platform said “glorified violence”.
On Wednesday several US civil rights groups launched a campaign urging brands and advertisers to “pause” spending with the platform in July for “allowing racist, violent and verifiably false content to run rampant on its platform”.
Despite the backlash, Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has defended the decision, along with its policy of not fact-checking political adverts, citing freedom of expression and arguing that no private companies should be responsible for being “the arbiter of truth”.
Facebook on Thursday declined to share further details about whether the Trump campaign was contacted in advance.
According to Media Matters, the Trump campaign has run anti-antifa adverts since June 3, but on June 17 ran 88 adverts with an inverted red triangle symbol.
Additional reporting by Courtney Weaver in Washington