Facebook Removes Trump Ad, Cites ‘Organised Hate’ Policy

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Symbol used by the Nazis to identify political prisoners used in adverts for the re-election campaign of US President Donald Trump

Facebook has taken down posts and adverts run by the re-election campaign of US President Donald Trump.

The social networking giant said that the posts and adverts violated its policy against organised hate, as they included a red inverted triangle, a symbol the Nazis used to identify political prisoners, Reuters reported.

The adverts included text asking Facebook users to sign a petition against antifa, an anti-fascist movement that has been fiercely criticised previously by the Trump administration.

Banned symbol?

Indeed President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr have repeatedly singled out antifa as a major instigator of recent unrest during nationwide anti-racism protests.

But now Facebook has decided to take down the offending posts and ads – a move that will no doubt re-enforce the belief within the Trump administration of a social media bias against conservative politicians.

“Our policy prohibits using a banned hate group’s symbol to identify political prisoners without the context that condemns or discusses the symbol,” a Facebook company spokesperson was quoted by Reuters as saying.

It said the offending posts and adverts were on pages belonging to Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, as well as on ads and posts on the “Team Trump” page.

“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,” the Anti-Defamation League’s CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, reportedly said in a statement.

“The inverted red triangle is a symbol used by Antifa, so it was included in an ad about Antifa,” Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the Trump campaign, said in an email.

“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.”

When he was asked about the ads’ removal at a US House Intelligence Committee hearing on Thursday, Facebook’s head of security policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, said the company would be consistent in taking the same actions if the symbol appeared in other places on the platform.

Facebook has previously removed Trump campaign ads, including ones that violated the company’s policy against misinformation on the government’s census.

Trump response

Earlier this week it was reported that the US Justice Department will very soon propose legislation to end long-standing protections for social media firms.

It comes after Twitter became engaged in a spat with US President Donald Trump last month, when it placed warning fact-checking labels on a couple of his tweets for the first time.

Twitter made the decision after Donald Trump made unsubstantiated claims that postal voting would lead to widespread fraud.

Twitter doubled down when it also placed another tweet of President Trump behind a warning label where it can only be viewed by clicking on it, because his tweet was ‘glorifying violence’ by threatening to shoot looters.

The US President had been tweeting about the US city of Minneapolis, which has seen nights of protests following the death of George Floyd.

In response to the Twitter action, the US President first threatened to close down social networking firms, but he then followed up on his threat and signed an executive order against them.

That executive order is an extraordinary attempt to regulate social media platforms. It seeks to introduce legislation that may scrap or weaken a law that has protected big name internet companies such as Facebook and Google, from being responsible for the material posted by their users.

Trump essentially wants to “remove or change” a provision of a law known as section 230 that shields social media companies from liability for content posted by their users.

Section 230 protections have been criticised in the past by other lawmakers on both sides of the pond, who feel that it gives social networking firms a free pass on things like hate speech and content that supports terrorism.

The Trump administration’s proposal would stop tech firms from taking down content arbitrarily, and instead push them to create rules and expectations and to enforce them consistently.

It would stop companies from deleting content it finds “objectionable” and require them to explain their decisions.

And crucially, the proposal would seek to hold tech platforms accountable if they facilitate scams or child exploitation or other violations of federal criminal law.

Quiz: Think you know all about Facebook?

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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