Merchandise companies that have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Facebook in recent years have run the ads.
On Monday, Fox News host Lara Logan sparked outrage by comparing Dr. Anthony Fauci to a notorious Nazi doctor known as the “Angel of Death”; at the same time, Facebook ads were running for a sweater that read, “I’m originally from America but I currently reside in 1941 Germany.”
Another ad compared vaccine rollouts to the Holocaust, implying falsely and ludicrously that they are part of a plan to mass slaughter 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 data reviewed by CNN, Facebook has made more than $280,000 from ads run by “Ride the Red Wave” since May. The page has less than 10,000 followers, but the page’s administrators can potentially reach millions of Americans by paying Facebook.
Since 2019, another company’s page, “Next Level Goods,” has spent more than $500,000 on Facebook ads. The company frequently advertises anti-vaccine t-shirts on Facebook.
An ad purchased in late August advertised a t-shirt with the words “Proudly Unpoisoned” next to a syringe image. With the anti-vaccine ad, the company paid Facebook about $2,500 to reach up to 450,000 Facebook users. The ads were most popular among Facebook users in Texas, Florida, and California, according to Facebook data.
The ads comparing the US COVID-19 response to Nazi Germany, comparing vaccines to the Holocaust, and the ad suggesting the vaccine was poison violated Facebook’s vaccine misinformation policies, according to a spokesperson for Meta, Facebook’s parent company.
However, because the infringing ads were displayed on Facebook’s platform, the company’s detection systems appear to have missed them.
CNN inquired about the “Make Hanging Traitors Great Again” ad, but Facebook declined to comment on whether the ad violated its policies.
Facebook has publicly praised its ostensibly positive role in encouraging Americans to get vaccinated. Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice president of integrity, wrote a blog post in July chastising President Joe Biden for claiming that social media platforms like Facebook are killing people. Biden later backtracked on his claim.
Laura Edelson, an NYU researcher who studies Facebook advertising, told CNN that Facebook does not manually review all of the ads it sells, which is one of the reasons why ads that break its rules are allowed to run.
In comparison to pages associated with political campaigns, Facebook appears to have a lighter-touch moderation approach to ads from seemingly commercial pages, such as those selling t-shirts, she said.
She told CNN, “You’ll find a lot more of the really strong rhetoric printed on a t-shirt than you will see in a straight persuasion ad.”