Facebook Yanks Another Trump Ad For A Laughably Obvious Policy Violation

Photo: Patrick Semansky, AP

Facebook has pulled another Donald Trump campaign ad for blatantly violating its advertising policies, but it only did so after being reached by the progressive Popular Info newsletter for comment, according to a Monday report by the newsletter.

The ad in question, below, featured an image of a crowd of women accompanied by the caption, “The Women for Trump Coalition needs the support of strong women like you!”

A Facebook spokesperson told Gizmodo that the ad violated a section of its policies that prohibits “content that asserts or implies personal attributes,” including “direct or indirect assertions or implications” about traits such as race, ethnicity, gender and sexual identity, religion, or financial standing.

“Can confirm we notified the campaign that the ads violate policy,” a Facebook spokesperson wrote in an email to Gizmodo. “They cannot continue to run unless fixed.”

Screenshot: Facebook, Popular Info

Popular Info wrote in April 2019 that Facebook had conceded “hundreds” of ads being run by Trump’s 2020 campaign were in violation of its policies and had removed them. (The prior incident involved ads beginning “Attention Ladies” and which were meant to solicit donations on First Lady Melania Trump’s birthday.) At the time, Facebook told Popular Info that its ad review system is primarily automated:

Asked what Facebook is doing to prevent political ads that violate its policies from running in the first place, a spokesperson said, “we’re always looking to improve our enforcement, which is never perfect.” The company acknowledges that the ads were “subject to Facebook’s ad review system, which relies primarily on automated tools to check ads against these policies.”

On Tuesday, Facebook reiterated to Gizmodo that its system remains automated and that humans are used to “train” its AI “and in some cases, review specific ads.”

“We know that machines and human reviewers make mistakes, which is why the ad review system and enforcement aren’t perfect and we won’t catch every ad,” a spokesperson said.

Popular Info also flagged examples of Trump ads that appear to violate Facebook policies prohibiting “deceptive claims, offers, or methods,” including ads falsely claiming that Democrats want to “repeal the Second Amendment” and that several Democratic candidates for U.S. president support eliminating private insurance when, in fact, they do not.

At least two verged on parody, including one featuring a supposed black Trump supporter named “Howard” (but whose endorsement was paired with photos of at least three different black men) and ads claiming the campaign would award a random supporter “the 1,000,000th red MAGA hat HAND-SIGNED by President Trump.”

The use of actors to portray supposed Trump supporters has been a consistent theme in the president’s re-election ads on Facebook. Many of the MAGA hat-themed ads listed different deadlines for the supposed contest, Popular Info wrote.

Prior reporting by the New York Times has emphasised that the president’s political campaigns have used Facebook ads to parrot some of his most inflammatory claims to supporters.

Over 2,000 ads between the start of the year and Aug. 5, 2019, used the word “invasion” to refer to immigration across the U.S. border with Mexico, the paper wrote, which mirrored language in the manifesto of a white supremacist gunman who killed 22 people and wounded dozens of others in El Paso, Texas, earlier this month.

According to the Los Angeles Times, some Democratic strategists have fretted that Trump’s re-election campaign has a massive lead on Facebook ad spending over any of his opponents in battleground states. That’s something that could obviously be attributed in large part to Trump’s incumbency advantage and a GOP field devoid of any other serious contenders other than libertarian Bill Weld.

But it also reflects that Trump’s political machine has bet hard on Facebook to drum up interest and collect donations and personal information from potential 2020 supporters. (Other reporting has suggested Democrats are following his campaign’s lead.) In its latest post, Popular Info argued that Trump’s political machine is “learning that it can get away with nearly anything on Facebook.”

Facebook has also come under fire for its continued utility in spreading disinformation and propaganda, such as doctored videos of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi manipulated to show her slurring words in speeches.

After Trump used his social media accounts to promote the videos of Pelosi, Facebook said it would take steps to limit their distribution on its platform but declined to remove them.

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