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Facebook takes down Trump ads featuring symbol used by Nazis to mark political prisoners

Facebook on Thursday took down Trump campaign ads against antifa that prominently featured a symbol used by Nazis to designate political prisoners, a spokesperson for the company confirmed to The Hill.

“We removed these posts and ads for violating our policy against organized hate," Facebook said in a statement. "Our policy prohibits using a banned hate group's symbol to identify political prisoners without the context that condemns or discusses the symbol.”

The ads featured an inverted red triangle, which was used by Nazis to identify political opponents including communists, social democrats and liberals at concentration camps.

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The symbol was included in 88 ads run by pages for President TrumpDonald John TrumpFox News president, top anchors advised to quarantine after coronavirus exposure: report Six notable moments from Trump and Biden's '60 Minutes' interviews Biden on attacks on mental fitness: Trump thought '9/11 attack was 7/11 attack' MORE, Vice President Pence and "Team Trump" alongside text warning readers of “Dangerous MOBS of far-left groups" and asking them to sign a petition against antifa, a loose group of radical activists that use direct action to fight against fascism. 

Just the ads on Trump's page were seen as many 950,000 times before being taken down.

The Trump campaign is defending using the image, calling it a "common Antifa symbol" in a statement to The Hill.

The campaign directed The Hill toward shirts, stickers and posters on websites were users can upload whatever design they would like to.

The most common symbol used to identify antifa is a black and red flag or three arrows inside a circle.

Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, tweeted Thursday that "Nazis used red triangles to identify their political victims in concentration camps.

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"Using it to attack political opponents is highly offensive," Greenblatt said. "@POTUS' campaign needs to learn its history, as ignorance is no excuse for using Nazi-related symbols." 

Bend The Arc: Jewish Action, a progressive advocacy group, similarly condemned the use of the symbol.

"This isn’t just one post," it wrote on Twitter. "This is dozens of carefully targeted ads from the official pages of Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceSix notable moments from Trump and Biden's '60 Minutes' interviews Pence's 'body man' among aides who tested positive for coronavirus: report Biden: Meadows coronavirus remark a 'candid acknowledgement' of Trump strategy 'to wave the white flag' MORE, Donald Trump, and Team Trump. All paid for by Trump and the Republican National Committee. All spreading lies and genocidal imagery."

Facebook has previously been criticized for its hands-off approach to political advertising, which it declines to fact check. These posts, however, were removed for violating the platform's organized hate policy.

Bend the Arc and Media Matters for America both pointed out that the ad was run exactly 88 times across the three accounts. The number is a well-known white supremacist code for “Heil Hitler,” with “H” being the eighth letter of the alphabet.

Additionally, the first sentence of the ad has 14 words, a number that is used as shorthand for a famous white supremacist slogan and often combined with 88.

It is entirely possible that the numbers of ads and words in their first sentence are a coincidence, and the Trump campaign declined to comment.

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This is not the first time that Trump and his campaign have been accused of using fascist dog whistles. Just last week, while tweeting about officials dispersing protesters, the president abbreviated the U.S. Secret Service to S.S., the common shorthand for the Nazi Party’s paramilitary Schutzstaffel.

During the 2016 election, Trump tweeted an image of Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHarris lists out 'racist' actions by Trump in '60 minutes' interview: 'It all speaks for itself' Trump has list of top intelligence officials he'll fire if he wins reelection: report Clinton says most Republicans want to see Trump gone but can't say it publicly: report MORE in front of piles of money next to a Star of David. He defended the image as meant to represent a sheriff's star but ultimately replaced it with a circle.

—Updated at 5:36 p.m.