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Andrea Austria / Media Matters

Research/Study Research/Study

Meta has earned over $390,000 on hundreds of ads pushing anti-immigrant “invasion” rhetoric in just over three months

Over 75% of the total spending on these ads during the time frame came from the conservative legal organization Judicial Watch

In a new study, Media Matters found that Meta has earned at least $397,500 from ads that have run on its platforms since October 2023 and promoted anti-immigrant “invasion” rhetoric, often specifically about immigration at the U.S. southern border or the white nationalist "great replacement" conspiracy theory. 

As right-wing media and figures have ramped up anti-immigrant rhetoric in recent years, Meta has repeatedly allowed ads using this divisive rhetoric to run on its platforms — and profited from them — even though some seem to violate the company's policies. 

  • In the last several years, extreme rhetoric claiming that the United States is facing an “invasion” at the southern border has grown from a fringe conspiracy theory to a central right-wing talking point, attempting to instill fear in voters and turn that fear into a fundraising tool

    While it is true that Border Patrol encounters with migrants have reached record levels, referring to this situation as an “invasion” is misleading and feeds directly into white nationalist ideology, such as the “great replacement” conspiracy theory that immigrants are being brought into the U.S. in mass numbers for the purpose of replacing white, Christian citizens. 

    Tension around the border has recently escalated, especially in Texas. In January, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government could remove razor wire placed along the state's border as a part of Operation Lone Star, launched by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott “to respond to a rise in illegal immigration.” After the ruling came out, Abbott and other Republican political figures refused to back down, and right-wing media encouraged them

  • Meta has earned at least $397,500 from 450 ads pushing anti-immigrant “invasion” rhetoric since October 2023, including from right-wing groups and figures

  • A Media Matters analysis of data from Meta’s ad library found that the company earned at least $397,500 from 450 ads that ran on its platforms between October 21, 2023, and February 2, 2024, and used the word “invade,” “invaded,” “invaders,” “invasion,” or “invading” to describe immigration in the United States and at U.S. borders. These ads garnered at least 15.5 million impressions combined. 

    Within the dataset, the conservative legal organization Judicial Watch accounted for over 75% of the total spending on ads with “invasion” rhetoric, spending at least $313,500 for 22 ads. The next three highest spenders were pro-Trump Facebook page Liberty Defender Group ($28,200 on 26 ads), The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro ($14,500 on 3 ads), and Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump ($7,400 on 2 ads).

  • A screenshot of four Meta ads that push invasion rhetoric
  • The official page for Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) ran over a fourth (125) of the ads in the dataset. Ron DeSantis’ now-terminated presidential campaign paid for the second largest number of anti-immigrant ads (62). DeSantis, who remains governor of Florida, recently deployed members of the Florida National Guard to help Texas “stop the invasion” at its border.

  • Screenshots of two Meta ads
  • Some ads seem to violate Meta’s policies and some push the white nationalist “great replacement” conspiracy theory

  • Meta’s hate speech policies prohibit content that refers to a protected group — including “refugees, migrants, immigrants, and asylum seekers” — as criminals or terrorists. Meta also has a dangerous organizations and individuals policy that states that it will “remove content that Glorifies, Supports or Represents ideologies that promote hate, such as nazism and white supremacy.” The policy goes on to further explain that this includes “White Supremacy, White Nationalism, [and] White Separatism.” 

    Several of the 450 ads that we identified also contained white nationalist rhetoric or referred to immigrants as criminals, some of which appears to violate Meta’s policies:

    • Ads from Texas House candidate Jill Dutton claimed that “Texan communities are under threat of invasion” and that she will “prevent the entry of these criminals who endanger Americans.”
  • A screenshot of a Meta ad
    • An ad from Max Engling for Indiana claims that “this is an invasion” and that “we are being flooded with illegal immigrants, drugs, cartel crime, and foreign terrorists all across our country.”
  • A screenshot of a Meta ad
    • Ads from pro-Trump Facebook page Liberty Defender Group feature clips of former Fox News host Tucker Carlson pushing the “great replacement” conspiracy theory, saying that “Americans are being replaced. That's not a conspiracy theory; it's a fact.”
  • Video file

    Citation Ad paid for by Liberty Defender Group that ran on Meta’s platforms beginning on January 22, 2024

    • At least one ad from South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem featured a clip of her January 25 appearance on Fox News, during which she claimed that President Joe Biden “is remaking this country. We will be Europe within a year or two if we allow President Biden to continue this invasion of our country.”
  • Video file

    Citation Ad paid for by Kristi for Governor that ran on Meta’s platforms from January 25 through January 27, 2024

  • Meta has a history of allowing anti-immigrant ads to run on its platforms 

  • Media Matters has previously reported that Meta allowed right-wing entities to use anti-immigrant “invasion” rhetoric and promote the “great replacement” conspiracy theory in ads on its platforms. In 2019, Trump ran over 2,000 ads referring to immigration as an “invasion” at the border. And after a 2022 mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, Meta made profits of up to $13,000 from at least 50 ads that used language promoting the great replacement conspiracy theory.