Facebook has finally gotten off the fence: On Thursday, the company removed reelection advertisements for President Donald Trump, citing them as violations of its hate policies.
The social giant — which has taken both internal and external fire for shrugging off inflammatory political rhetoric on its network — pulled the campaign’s latest ads due to their use of a red, downward-facing triangle, a symbol tied to Nazi concentration camp badges.
One such ad reads: “Dangerous MOBS of far-left groups are running through our streets and causing absolute mayhem. They are DESTROYING our cities and rioting — it’s absolute madness,” alongside the icon.
Since the protests erupted following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, President Trump has repeatedly vilified the far left, in particular Antifa, a group POTUS wants to designate as a terrorist organization.
In comments to media, Facebook spokesman Andy Stone explained that the content violates the company’s “organized hate” policy. The rules forbid the use of a “banned hate group’s symbol to identify political prisoners without the context that condemns or discusses the symbol,” he said.
Political Jewish advocacy group Bend the Arc condemned the ads in tweets, writing, “Nazis used the red triangle to mark political prisoners and people who rescued Jews. Trump & the RNC are using it to smear millions of protesters.”
The Anti-Defamation League noted that Trump’s triangle “is practically identical” to the Nazi symbol.
The move marks a significant shift for Facebook, which has tried to remain neutral about communications from political leaders, citing free speech and other concerns — or so it reasoned publicly, at least.
But critics believe it’s just an excuse that lets the company off the hook from addressing controversial content. The optics look particularly bad when compared with other social networks, like Twitter, which fact-checked and hid some of President Trump’s tweets last month.
One infamous example stated, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” a phrase that goes back to Miami police chief Walter Headley’s 1967 comments signaling a crackdown on civil rights protests.
Twitter hid the message, while Facebook allowed it to remain unfettered on its network. After intense scrutiny and criticism, including a virtual walkout among its employees, the company vowed to reflect on its position.
The removal may or may not be due to a change of heart. But what’s clear is that any evocation of Nazi imagery is just too egregious to ignore — no matter how much Facebook might want to.