Facebook removes Trump campaign ad about ‘far-left groups,’ says it shows ‘hate group’s symbol’

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Facebook on Thursday removed an ad run by President Trump’s re-election campaign for violating the social media platform’s policy on hate speech, but the Trump campaign pushed back hard by arguing they were showing a "symbol used by Antifa" to push back against far-left groups.

The ad in question featured the Trump campaign denouncing what it called “Dangerous MOBS of far-left groups” and features a red upside-down triangle with a black border. A red upside-down triangle was used by the Nazis in their concentration camps to signify political prisoners such as socialists, communists and anarchists.

“We removed these posts and ads for violating our policy against organized hate,” a Facebook company spokesperson said in a statement sent to Fox News. “Our policy prohibits using a banned hate group's symbol to identify political prisoners without the context that condemns or discusses the symbol.”

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The Trump campaign, though, responded that the upside-down red triangle is a symbol used by Antifa and called out Facebook for including one as an emoji in its messenger.

“The inverted red triangle is a symbol used by Antifa, so it was included in an ad about Antifa," Tim Murtaugh, the campaign's communications director, told Fox News. "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 campaign also took to Twitter to argue it's "symbol widely used by Antifa."

He added: "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.”

While Antifa operates in a semi-autonomous fashion, most imagery associated with the group does not feature an upside-down red triangle. Instead, the symbols most commonly associated with the group are a circle with red and black flags in it or a circle with three arrows pointing down and to the left.

The ad, which was posted by Team Trump’s Facebook group as well as on Trump’s and Vice President Mike Pence’s pages, stated that “Dangerous MOBS of far-left groups” are “DESTROYING out cities and rioting – it’s absolute madness.”

“It’s important that EVERY American comes together at a time like this to send a united message that we will not stand for their radical actions any longer.”

Trump and his allies have blamed much of the recent protests – and the rioting and looting that accompanied some of them – on anarchists and groups like Antifa, the anti-fascist protest movement that militantly opposes fascism and far-right ideologies. Though it's not known to what extent Antifa has been involved in the recent unrest, Trump has used the movement to rally his base of support ahead of November’s presidential election and justify the use of strong-arm tactics to suppress protests in Washington.

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Facebook’s actions against the Trump campaign’s ad occurred just one day after the Justice Department sent lawmakers on Capitol Hill a proposal to pass legislation that would hold Facebook, Twitter and other tech behemoths accountable for what is posted on their platforms – a move that if passed would roll back protections Silicon Valley has had for decades.

The Justice Department’s proposals, unveiled Wednesday afternoon, want online platforms to better police their sites for illicit and harmful material, and to take a more objective approach in deciding what content they deem objectionable and decide to take down. The DOJ, in a news release, said it was calling for lawmakers to "update the outdated immunity for online platforms" under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.

The proposal comes as Trump and many conservative lawmakers in Congress have been sharply critical of the alleged bias by tech companies against right-wing material on their platforms.

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Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., introduced legislation Wednesday to give Americans the ability to sue major tech companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter if they engage in selective censorship of political speech.

The Limiting Section 230 Immunity to Good Samaritans Act, cosponsored by Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Mike Braun, R-Ind., and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., would stop such companies from receiving immunity under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, unless they update their terms of service to promise to operate in good faith.

Trump also signed an executive order this month that interprets Section 230 as not providing statutory liability protections for tech companies that engage in censorship and political conduct -- though DOJ officials say the department has been working on the legislative recommendations for months and they are not a direct result of Trump’s order.

"My executive order calls for new regulations under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to make it so that social media companies that engage in censoring any political conduct will not be able to keep their liability shield," the president said at the time.

Fox News’ Adam Shaw contributed to this report.