Facebook Let a U.S. Politician Advocate Shooting Looters With His ‘Liberty Machine’

Image: Screengrab
Image: Screengrab

Popular Information broke the news Thursday that Facebook had allowed a U.S. Republican Congressional candidate to run an ad suggesting that looters should be shot. In the video, former Georgia Congressman Paul Broun, who is currently running to represent Georgia’s 9th Congressional District, fires off his “liberty machine” — an AR15 — over the caption “Looting hoards from Atlanta? That’s what Liberty Machines are for!” The ad, which ran on Facebook and Instagram from Saturday until Wednesday, has since been removed for violating Facebook’s policies. Public Information reports that Facebook removed the ad after it contacted the company.

Broun’s apparent obsession with “looting hoards” dates back to before Trump’s “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” post; he’s advocated for shooting Atlanta residents at least since April, when he shared the same video, which is still live on YouTube. He told the Guardian at the time that the “from Atlanta” reference was “not racial.” The day after publication, he tweeted that the #FakeNews didn’t understand that the #LibertyMachine is actually the “best” defence against racism.

Oddly, there were no reports of looting in Atlanta at that time.

Broun, who’s about six inches away from campaigning in a Hawaiian shirt, also suggests that “liberty machines” could be used to combat “a tyrannical government from Washington,” and “looting hoards” are a similarly convenient fear tactic to promote gun sales (Broun boasts an A grade from the NRA). Soon after the video was uploaded in April, Broun tweetstormed the hashtag “#LootingHoards” in reference to antifa, anti-Trump protesters, and people panic-buying toilet paper, and speculated that New York and the U.S. military were preparing for “looting hoards” due to coronavirus- and protest-related store closures.

Broun chose to run the nearly two-month-old ad a day after Trump’s “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” post, echoing a civil rights movement-era segregationist police officer and politician. Given that Facebook’s decision not to remove or hide that incitement of violence dominated the news cycle throughout the ad’s run, Broun’s ability to run it again without getting flagged just adds to the pile of evidence against CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s defence of his platform. It’s proof he is patently ignoring the fact that Trump amplifies dog whistles on his platform, in spite of his strenuous mental gymnastics to deny it. In a company meeting on Tuesday, transcribed by Recode, Zuckerberg said that Trump’s post “has no history of being read as a dog whistle for vigilante supporters to take justice into their own hands.”

Broun’s Facebook ad reached between 50,000 and 100,000 impressions before it was removed.