Between January and February, President Donald Trump’s Facebook page ran about 2,200 ads referring to immigration as an “invasion.”
Since May 2018, at least nine other Republican politicians, including Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), have run Facebook ads pushing the same white supremacist talking point. Facebook’s advertising policies and community standards prohibit attacks which target a group of people based on their immigration status.
Trump’s Facebook page ran two types of ads. The first claimed that there was a “true invasion happening” at the southern border which Democrats and the media were ignoring, and it asked users to take a linked survey on border security. The first question on the survey asked participants which issues concerned them most about the border: drug trafficking, criminals, MS-13 gang members, sex trafficking, illegal aliens, terrorists, or all of the above. This ad was likely part of a group email list-building campaign since the participants’ contact information was requested at the end of the survey. According to Facebook’s ad library, about 1,000 of these ads ran between January and February, all paid for by “the Trump Make America Great Again Committee.”
The other type of ad Trump’s campaign ran began by saying, “We have an INVASION!” Trump’s campaign ran this ad over 1,100 times to solicit donations for Trump’s campaign to build a wall on the southern U.S. border. According to Facebook’s ad library, all of these ads were paid for by “Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.”
In addition to Trump’s white supremacist dog whistle ads, Facebook has allowed at least nine other Republican lawmakers and candidates for office to run ads referring to immigration as an “invasion.” When she was a Senate candidate, Blackburn ran multiple ads between October 31 and November 6, the day of the 2018 midterm elections, fearmongering about two caravans of migrants and asylum-seekers traveling from Central America to the U.S. In one ad, Blackburn’s Facebook page referred to the caravan as an “illegal alien mob marching on our border” and “an invading force that must be stopped.” Her other ads claimed the migrant caravans were an “invading force approaching our southern border.” According to its ad library, Facebook made between $2,000 and $10,000 on Blackburn’s “invasion” ads.
Facebook permitted at least eight other Republicans to run ads featuring the white nationalist talking point that an “invasion” of immigrants is flooding the U.S.:
Former Virginia Senate candidate Corey Stewart ran four anti-immigrant ads on October 25 featuring a video titled “Invasion.” Facebook made between $200 and $1,000 from those four ads.
Sandy Smith, a Republican Senate primary candidate for North Carolina, ran multiple ads between April and June referring to immigration as an “invasion.” Facebook made between $2,600 and $8,595 from those four ads.
Rep. John Rose (R-TN) ran four ads between May and June 2018 referring to “illegal immigration” as an “invasion” that is “out of control.” Facebook made between $1,200 and $6,097 from those four ads.
Florida state Sen. Joe Gruters, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, ran two ads during his state Senate campaign in October referring to a caravan of migrants and asylum-seekers from Central America as an “invasion.” Facebook made between $1,100 and nearly $5,500 from those two ads.
Wendy Rogers, a former Arizona congressional candidate, published an ad referring to immigration as an “invasion” during her campaign for the Arizona state Senate, between June 6-29. Facebook made between $500 and nearly $1,000 from those two ads.
Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX) ran one ad during his reelection campaign in May and June which claimed: “Illegal immigration is the biggest threat we face in our nation. We must stop this invading army from coming across the border.” Facebook made between $100 and nearly $500 from that ad.
Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville of Alabama ran one ad between May 2 and June 29 stating that immigration was an “invasion of our country.” Facebook made between $100 and nearly $500 from the ad.
Former New Jersey congressional candidate Seth Grossman ran one ad during his general election campaign between November 2-5 in which he referred to immigration as an “Invasion. Pure & Simple.” Facebook made between $100 and nearly $500 from the ad.
Facebook’s advertising policies prohibit ads that violate the social media site’s overall community standards, including prohibited hate speech against protected characteristics such as race, ethnicity, or national origin. According to Facebook’s policy, “some protections” against hate speech extend to immigration status, although the company notes that it allows “criticism of immigration policies and arguments for restricting those policies.” Although this wording is vague in terms of which protections apply to immigration status, the policy clearly states that specific examples of “violent” or “dehumanizing” attacks against a group of people based on immigration status are prohibited.
Trump has a long history of pushing anti-immigrant, white supremacist dog whistles. In October, Trump referred to a caravan of migrants and asylum-seekers heading to the U.S. border from Central America as an “invasion.” During a Florida rally in May, Trump asked the crowd “how do you stop these people” from coming to the U.S. without authorization. After one rally attendee responded, “Shoot them,” Trump laughed and joked about Florida Panhandle residents being able to “get away with” murdering immigrants. Just last month, Trump told four congresswomen of color to “go back” to the “crime infested places from which they came.”