Germany’s far-right party is running hateful ads on Facebook and Instagram

Earlier this month, a German court rule that the country’s far-right nationalist party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD), is potentially “extremist” and could be monitored by the country’s intelligence apparatus.

According to a campaign advertisement placed by the AfD, it is still allowed to appear on Facebook and Instagram. new report from nonprofit advocacy organization Ekō shared exclusively with WIRED. Researchers found 23 ads that garnered 472,000 views from the party on Facebook and Instagram that appeared to violate Meta’s policies on hate speech.

The ads push the narrative that immigrants are dangerous and a burden to the German state ahead of June’s European Union elections.

An ad posted by AfD politician Gereon Bollman asserts that Germany has seen an “explosion of sexual violence” since 2015, specifically blaming immigrants from Türkiye, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. The ad was viewed by approximately 10,000 to 15,000 people in just four days, from March 16 to 20, 2024. Another ad, viewed more than 60,000 times, featured a black man lying in a hammock. The overlaid text reads: “AfD reveals: 686,000 illegal foreigners are living at our expense!”

Ekō was also able to identify at least three ads that appeared to have used synthetic AI to process images, although only one ran after Meta included it. Manipulated media policy is in place. One showed a white woman with visible injuries, accompanied by text saying “the link between migration and crime has been denied for many years.”

“Meta and other companies have very limited ability to detect third-party tools that generate AI images,” said Vicky Wyatt, senior campaign manager at Ekō. “When extremist parties use those tools for their advertising, they can create incredibly moving images that can really move people. So it’s extremely worrying.”

In the European Commission’s consultation submission on election guidance, obtained through a freedom of information request made by Ekō, Meta said “providers are not yet able to identify all content produced by AI created, especially when actors take steps to seek to avoid detection, including removing invisible markers.”

Meta own policy bans advertising that “suggests that people are a threat to the safety, health, or survival of others based on their personal characteristics” and advertising that “includes generalizations that demonstrate inferiority inferiority, other statements of inferiority, expressions of contempt, expressions of rejection, expressions of disgust, or curses based on immigration status.”

“We do not allow hate speech on our platform and have Community Standards that apply to all content – ​​including ads,” said Meta spokesman Daniel Roberts. “Our ad review process has multiple layers of analysis and detection, both before and after an ad goes live, and this system is one of many we have in place to protect elections in Europe.” Roberts told WIRED that the company plans to review ads flagged by Ekō but did not answer questions about whether the German court’s designation of the AfD as an extremist is likely to invite further scrutiny from Meta. Are not.

Targeted advertising can be powerful, Wyatt said, because extremist groups can more effectively target people who may agree with their views and “use ad libraries of Meta to reach them”. Wyatt also said this allows the team to test which messages are more likely to resonate with voters.

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