July 6, 2020
A sponsored ad for Trump’s re-election campaign was removed from Facebook June 18 due to its violation of the social media company’s policies against organized hate. The ad, which was posted to both Trump and Pence’s own Facebook pages, as well as the Team Trump campaign page, included a large red inverted triangle, a symbol used to identify political opposers of the Nazi party, underneath it’s call for Americans to band together to combat “Dangerous MOBS of far-left groups.”
While Director of Communications for the Trump campaign Tim Murtaugh was quick to point out that the image is not listed in the Anti-Defamation League’s database of symbols of hate, it was recognized almost immediately as having a possible Nazi association. The Anti-Defamation league ceded that the symbol is not listed as a symbol of hate, but pointed out that theirs is “not a database of historical Nazi symbols, but of symbols commonly used by modern extremists in the US.”
The Nazi party used inverted triangles of various colors to identify types of prisoners within concentration camps. The red triangle was used to denote political prisoners in particular, meaning those who opposed the Nazi party including liberals and socialists, those who assisted would-be prisoners, as well as union and Freemason workers, among other groups. Murtaugh mentioned the possible use of the symbol by Antifa, though there is no proof of that.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been under fire since the 2016 election for the many ways he allowed Facebook to be manipulated toward political ends, including the harvesting of users’ data and sale of ad space to Russian organizations pushing for a Trump victory. Just three weeks ago Zuckerberg defended Facebook’s stance against censorship when he declined to remove Trump’s controversial post reading “When the looting starts, the shooting starts” in response to protests around the country – another potentially divisive piece of rhetoric. Zuckerberg has said “Our position is that we should enable as much expression as possible unless it will cause imminent risk of specific harms or dangers spelled out in clear policies.”
Prior to the removal of the red triangle and accompanying message, many spoke out against Facebook’s inaction in the face of potentially divisive political posts, including many of the company’s employees. Democrats on the House Committee on Homeland Security demanded an explanation from Zuckerberg stating that “There is a difference between being a platform that facilitates public discourse and one that peddles incendiary, race-baiting innuendo guised as political speech for profit. Last week, your employees walked out to stand up against racism and in support of truth. You should decide which side you are on.” The Open Technology Institute and Public Knowledge, both technology advocacy groups, have since stated that they will no longer accept funding from Facebook. It is unclear whether this action signals a turning point for Facebook, but as the presidential election eeks closer, many will be watching.