Facebook Group Ran Paid Promos Featuring Swastikas on Holocaust Remembrance Day

By Patrick Coffee 

You may have heard that Facebook has been going through a bit of a rough patch lately as it tries to navigate the delicate balance between pleasing its users and using its various advertising products to make money for investors.

The company has been particularly sensitive to the distribution of potentially offensive content … or not. Depends on who you ask.

For example, Monday was Holocaust Remembrance Day in the United States. And a certain Facebook user decided to take the opportunity to get as much attention as possible by paying for a “promoted” post for his or her page “Millenial Conservative Shirts” (note the probably-intentional misspelling).

The promo popped up in the timelines of some of our colleagues, who did not find the blatant presence of a swastika particularly amusing.

alt right shirts MAIN SPONSORED

That’s quite a juxtaposition, isn’t it? A few others saw the “ad” too—which was obviously the buyer’s intention.

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So what’s going on here?

Well, some users obviously reported the page to Facebook admin, and the next day its runner responded by cutting out the swastika approximately 24 hours after the promo initially went live.

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It would seem, then, that Facebook sees “Multiculturalism = genocide” as an acceptable sentiment even if Nazi imagery is a big no-no. The page links to a site claiming to sell the “Alt Right” shirts in question, but the creator revealed his (or her) hand in a since-deleted description of the main image.

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So the person running Antisemitic imagery on Holocaust Remembrance Day and claiming to sell shirts like the one below is just playing a joke on others to make an indiscernible point about his or her political opponents.

There’s some saying about having to explain your sense of humor that we can’t quite remember.

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We reached out to the owner of this page, who bravely chose not to respond. More than 24 hours after the promo first appeared, a Facebook spokesperson wrote, “These ads violated our policy under Prohibited Content and have been removed.”

The page itself, however, remains. Here are a couple of relevant statements from Facebook’s official policy guides:

  • “We define harmful content as anything organizing real world violence, theft, or property destruction, or that directly inflicts emotional distress on a specific private individual (e.g. bullying).”
  • “You must not use targeting options to discriminate against, harass, provoke, or disparage users or to engage in predatory advertising practices.”

Given the number of potentially inflammatory pages and posts created and shared by its 1.8 billion users every day, one can see that this is a daunting predicament for Facebook. But one of the two most powerful companies in the ad business appears to have determined, alternately, that nudity in public monuments or historic photographs violates its standards while racist trolling is a fact of life. Its team will never be able to identify every offender, even within a 24-hour window.

And we wonder why media agencies demand more transparency.