KEY POINTS

  • The ads linked antifa, without evidence, to violence that erupted during recebt racial justice protests
  • The Trump campaign defended use of the symbol, which it falsely alleged was used by antifa itself
  • Antifa's most common symbol is a red and black flag or a circle with three arrows inside

Facebook yanked ads placed by President Trump’s reelection campaign Thursday because they included a symbol used by the Nazis to designate political prisoners in concentration camps.

The ads included an inverted red triangle that was used in the 1930s to identify Communists, Social Democrats, liberals, Freemasons and other members of opposition parties.

The 88 ads were featured alongside texts warning against dangerous mobs – an apparent reference to racial justice protesters – and asked supporters to sign a petition against antifa, a loosely organized anti-fascist protest movement Trump has blamed for violence during protests that followed the death of George Floyd, who begged for air as a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck, despite indications the violence was prompted by the far-right boogaloo movement.

“Our policy prohibits using a banned hate group’s symbol to identify political prisoners without the context that condemns or discusses the symbol,” Facebook said in a statement. The ads were removed following a Washington Post inquiry.

Though Facebook earlier removed what it said were misleading Trump ads about the census following a complaint from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the company has maintained it is not an arbiter of political speech – unlike Twitter, which has banned political ads and taken to labeling some of president’s posts.

The ads, which were targeted at all 50 states, began running Wednesday and had gained 950,000 impressions on Trump’s page alone and 500,000 on Pence’s page before they were removed.

The ad read: “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.” The text was followed by a white box outlined in black with a an upside-down red triangle outlined in black in the middle.

This computer screen capture shows a removed Trump campaign ad that appeared in feeds on Facebook on June 18, 2020 and contained a symbol used in Nazi Germany for political prisoners This computer screen capture shows a removed Trump campaign ad that appeared in feeds on Facebook on June 18, 2020 and contained a symbol used in Nazi Germany for political prisoners Photo: FACEBOOK / Handout

Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said the red triangle actually is an antifa symbol and that Facebook, itself, uses the symbol.

“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,” Murtaugh said.

The most common antifa symbol, however, is a black and red flag or three arrows inside a circle.

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt called the ad deeply offensive and urged the Trump campaign to do a better job of researching symbols.

“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,” Greenblatt said.

“It is not difficult for one to criticize their political opponent without using Nazi-era imagery. We implore the Trump campaign to take greater caution and familiarize themselves with the historical context before doing so. Ignorance is not an excuse for appropriating hateful symbols.”

Progressive advocacy group Bend the Arc: Jewish Action said use of the symbol reveals where the Trump campaign’s beliefs really lie.