Facebook has removed campaign ads by President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence that featured an upside-down red triangle, a symbol once used by Nazis to designate political prisoners, communists and others in concentration camps.
The company said in a statement Thursday that the ads violated “our policy against organized hate.” A Facebook executive who testified at a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Thursday said the company does not permit symbols of hateful ideology “unless they’re put up with context or condemnation.”
“In a situation where we don’t see either of those, we don’t allow it on the platform and we remove it. That’s what we saw in this case with this ad, and anywhere that that symbol is used, we would take the same action,” Nathaniel Gleicher, the company’s head of security policy, told lawmakers at a hearing.
The Trump campaign spent more than $17,000 on the ads for Trump and Pence combined. The ads began running on Wednesday and received hundreds of thousands of impressions.
In a statement, Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said the inverted red triangle was a symbol commonly used by antifa so it was included in an ad about antifa. He said the symbol is not in the Anti-Defamation League’s database of symbols of hate. The Trump campaign also argued that the symbol is an emoji.
“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.
Antifa is an umbrella term for leftist militants bound more by belief than organizational structure. Trump has blamed antifa for the violence that erupted during some of the recent protests, but federal law enforcement officials have offered little evidence of this.
Some experts disputed that the red triangle was commonly used as an antifa symbol.
European anti-fascist groups initially used the red triangle as a symbol, hoping to reclaim its meaning after World War II, but it is no longer widely used by the movement nor by U.S. antifa groups, said Mark Bray, a Rutgers University historian and author of “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook.”
The ADL said the triangle was not in its database because it is a historical symbol and the database includes only those symbols used by modern-day extremists and white supremacists.
“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,” ADL chief executive officer Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement.
Even with the ads removed, Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, still face persistent criticism for not removing or labeling earlier posts by Trump that spread misinformation about voting by mail and, many said, encouraged violence against protesters during recent unrest in American cities.