Facebook has sold advertising advocating anti-vaccine propaganda, equating the US government’s response to Covid-19 to Nazi Germany, putting doubt on the 2020 election’s outcome, and even encouraging political violence.
Merchandise firms who have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Facebook in recent years have placed the ads.
On Monday, Fox News host Lara Logan sparked anger by comparing Dr. Anthony Fauci to an infamous Nazi doctor known as the “Angel of Death” – about the same time, advertising for a sweater bearing the words “I’m originally from America but I currently reside in 1941 Germany” were appearing on Facebook.
Another commercial equated vaccination rollouts to the Holocaust, claiming falsely and ludicrously that they are part of a plan to mass-murder people.
A Facebook page called “Ride the Red Wave” ran the ad. The page advertised a t-shirt with the slogan “Make hanging traitors great again” earlier this year.
According to statistics seen by CNN, Facebook has made more than $280,000 from advertising sold by “Ride the Red Wave” since May. The page has less than 10,000 followers, but the folks who administer it can potentially reach millions more Americans by paying Facebook.
Since 2019, another company’s page, “Next Level Goods,” has spent more than $500,000 on Facebook advertisements. The company frequently advertises anti-vaccine t-shirts on Facebook.
In late August, one ad bought a t-shirt with the words “Proudly Unpoisoned” next to a syringe image. With the anti-vaccine ad, the business paid Facebook about $2,500 to reach up to 450,000 Facebook members. The ads were most popular among Facebook users in Texas, Florida, and California, according to Facebook data.
The advertising comparing the US Covid-19 reaction to Nazi Germany, linking vaccinations to the Holocaust, and the ad implying the vaccine was poison violated Facebook’s vaccine disinformation standards, according to a representative for Meta, Facebook’s parent company.
However, because the infringing advertising were displayed on Facebook’s platform, the company’s detection algorithms appear to have overlooked them.
CNN inquired about the ad that stated “Make Hanging Traitors Great Again,” but Facebook did not respond, claiming that the ad did not violate company regulations.
Facebook has publicly praised its ostensibly helpful role in pushing Americans to get vaccinated.
In July, Guy Rosen, the company’s vice president of integrity, wrote a blog post chastising President Joe Biden for claiming that social media platforms such as Facebook are killing people. Biden then backtracked on his claim.
Laura Edelson, an NYU researcher who studies Facebook advertising, told CNN that Facebook does not personally examine all of the ads it buys, which is one of the reasons why ads that break its policies are permitted to run.
In comparison to pages affiliated with political campaigns, Facebook tends to take a lighter-touch moderation approach to advertising from obviously commercial pages, such as those selling t-shirts, she added.
“You will find a lot more of the really strong rhetoric printed on a t-shirt much more than you will see in a straight persuasion ad,” she told CNN.