(TMU) – In a seeming reversal on Facebook’s position that it would not remove political speech, the social media giant removed 88 ads on Thursday posted by the accounts of President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and the Trump campaign on the grounds that they violated company policies “against organized hate.”
The identical ads went after leftists and so-called “antifa” (anti-fascist) groups that prominently featured an inverted red triangle outlined in black, a symbol that Nazi German authorities used during World War II to identify political dissenters who were incarcerated in concentration camps.
The ads riled up social media users who were quick to point out the historical significance of the symbol.
“We removed these posts and ads for violating our policy against organized hate,” Facebook said in a statement republished by Axios. “Our policy prohibits using a banned hate group’s symbol to identify political prisoners without the context that condemns or discusses 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.
Their masks are off. pic.twitter.com/UzmzDaRBup
— Bend the Arc: Jewish Action (@jewishaction) June 18, 2020
Other versions of the ad that are visible in Facebook’s ad library used identical language and alternative clip art such as exclamation points and stop signs.
Each ad was posted by the president’s official account, the vice president’s official account, and the “TRUMP MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN COMMITTEE,” the president’s official reelection campaign account.
The ads were initially published on Thursday. By 1 a.m. ET Friday, Jewish advocacy group Bend the Arc blasted the ads as “campaigning for reelection using a Na*i concentration camp symbol,” in a tweet that swiftly went viral and has since been retweeted about 15,000 times.
“Nazis used the red triangle to mark political prisoners and people who rescued Jews,” the group wrote. “Trump & the RNC are using it to smear millions of protestors. Their masks are off.”
In a statement, Trump campaign spokesperson Tim Murtaugh defended the use of the Nazi symbol by claiming that it is an emoji that is widely used by activists opposed to fascism.
“The inverted red triangle is a symbol used by Antifa, so it was included in an ad about Antifa,” Murtaugh said. “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. 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,” he added.
A Trump campaign account also posted a link to a t-shirt in which the word “ANTIFA” is scrawled across an upside down red triangle as proof that the symbol is somehow an icon used by opponents to fascism. The shirt was uploaded to a customized t-shirt website by a user from Spain.
This is an emoji. ?
It's also a symbol widely used by Antifa. It was used in an ad about Antifa.
It is not in the ADL's Hate Symbols Database. pic.twitter.com/SLEsSdLu3y
— Trump War Room – Text TRUMP to 88022 (@TrumpWarRoom) June 18, 2020
However, the triangle is generally not common among Antifa iconography, which uses the “Antifascist Action” symbol featuring a red and black flag or the “Iron Front” symbol of three arrows pointing downward.
In the ads, users were starkly warned that “dangerous MOBS of far-left groups are running through our streets and causing absolute mayhem.”
“Please add your name IMMEDIATELY to stand with your President and his decision to declare ANTIFA a Terrorist Organization,” it read.
The ad redirected users to Trump’s official site, where users could give their personal contact information to the campaign’s mailing list.
In a tweet, the official account belonging to the official Auschwitz Museum in Oświęcim, Poland explained:
“A red triangle that marked ‘political prisoners’ was the most common category of prisoners registered at the German Nazi #Auschwitz camp. In August 1944, political prisoners constituted 95 percent of camp prisoners’. A letter inside the triangle could mark the nationality.”
A red triangle that marked ‘political prisoners’ was the most common category of prisoners registered at the German Nazi #Auschwitz camp.
In August 1944, political prisoners constituted 95 percent of camp prisoners’. A letter inside the triangle could mark the nationality. pic.twitter.com/jBuNn0xmL1
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) June 18, 2020
In recent statements, Trump has attempted to brand antifa a domestic terrorist organization that he holds responsible for the wave of unrest following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
However, the term Antifa originates in the 1930s when left-wing activists opposed to far-right authoritarianism emerged as a global movement. In recent history, the phrase has come back as a political orientation opposed to ultranationalism and fascism in the U.S., Latin America and Europe. Those who identify with the term typically favor direct action and autonomous mutual aid over policy reform. While many right-wing politicians such as Trump have tried to brand antifa as an organization, the group is not a formal organization.
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