Facebook has sold ads promoting anti-vaccine messages, comparing the US government’s response to Covid-19 with Nazi Germany, casting doubt on the outcome of the 2020 election and even encouraging political violence.
The ads were run by merchandise companies that have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Facebook in recent years.
On Monday, Fox News personality Lara Logan caused outrage by dr. Compare Anthony Fauci to an infamous Nazi doctor known as the “Angel of Death” – around the same time ads ran on Facebook promoting a sweater with the words, “I’m originally from America, but I currently live in 1941, Germany.”
Another advertisement compared vaccine rollouts to the Holocaust – falsely and ridiculously implying that they are part of an effort to massacre people on a massive scale.
The ad was run by a Facebook page called ‘Ride the Red Wave’. Earlier this year the page ran ads for a t-shirt with the words, “Make hanging traitors great again.”
Facebook has made more than $280,000 from “Ride the Red Wave” ads since May, according to data reviewed by CNN. The page has fewer than 10,000 followers, but by paying Facebook, the people running the page could potentially reach millions of Americans.
“Next Level Goods,” another page, run by a different company, has spent more than $500,000 on Facebook ads since 2019. The company regularly uses Facebook to promote vaccine t-shirts.
One ad purchase in late August, it promoted a t-shirt that read “Proudly Unpoisoned” next to an image of a syringe. The company paid Facebook about $2,500 to reach up to 450,000 Facebook users with the anti-vaccine ad. According to Facebook data, the ads were most viewed by Facebook users in Texas, Florida and California.
A spokesperson for Meta, Facebook’s parent company, said the ads comparing the US’s Covid-19 response to Nazi Germany compared vaccines to the Holocaust, and the ad suggesting the vaccine was poison went against the grain. Facebook’s policy on vaccine misinformation.
However, since these infringing ads ran on its platform, Facebook’s detection systems seemed to miss them.
CNN also asked about the ad that read “Make Hanging Traitors Great Again,” but Facebook didn’t say that ad broke its policy.
Facebook has publicly touted the seemingly positive role it plays in encouraging Americans to get vaccinated. Guy Rosen, vice president of company integrity, wrote a blog post in July rebuked President Joe Biden for claiming platforms like Facebook are killing people. Biden withdrew later from the claim.
Laura Edelson, a researcher at NYU who tracks ads on Facebook, told CNN that Facebook doesn’t manually review all of the ads it sells — one of the reasons why ads that violate the rules are shown on the platform.
Facebook, she said, also appears to have a lighter moderation approach to ads from seemingly commercial pages, such as those that sell t-shirts, compared to pages associated with political campaigns.
“You’ll find a lot more of the really strong rhetoric on a t-shirt, a lot more than you’ll see in a direct persuasion ad,” she told CNN.
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