Facebook is refusing to remove an attack ad falsely linking Rep. Ilhan Omar to Hamas

Rep. Ilhan Omar.
Rep. Ilhan Omar.

  • The pro-Israeli lobby AIPAC ran an ad falsely linking Rep. Ilhan Omar to Hamas.
  • Facebook said it didn’t violate company policies after Omar’s office warned about it.
  • Facebook has long been slammed for not doing more to clamp down on misinformation and hate speech.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Facebook refused to remove an attack ad falsely linking Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar to Hamas, even after her aides said that similar claims had resulted in death threats to the lawmaker in the past.

The ad was produced by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the pro-Israel lobbying group, and showed the face of the Minnesota lawmaker, who is Muslim, superimposed onto rockets fired by the Gaza militants toward Israel.

“When Israel targets Hamas, Rep. Omar calls it an act of terrorism,” the caption said. The ad is still live on Facebook.

The ad distorted a tweet by Omar that said that the Israel killing Palestinian civilians in Gaza constituted an act of terrorism. Omar did not allege that Israel’s targeting Hamas constituted terrorism, as the ad claimed.

The AIPAC ad went up during the deadly air attacks between the Israeli Defense Forces and Gaza militants in the past two weeks. Israel and Gaza agreed to a cease-fire on Thursday.

Omar’s office told The Washington Post that it had contacted Facebook to request the removal of the ad, saying that it was inaccurate and could lead to death threats against Omar.

Facebook told Omar’s office, and later confirmed to The Post, that it would not remove the ad because it does not violate its policies.

Insider has contacted Facebook and Omar’s office for comment.

The refusal of Facebook to remove the ad is likely to fuel more criticism of the platform for failing to do more to remove hate speech and misinformation.

Democratic Reps. Pramila Jayapal and David Cicilline last August urged the platform to do more to remove election misinformation and stop far-right militias using it to organize and propagandize.

Omar has long been the focus of right-wing smear campaigns. In 2019, former President Donald Trump posted a video on Facebook attacking Omar, using an out-of-context quote to make it appear that she backed the 9/11 attacks, leading to calls for the president to be banned from the platform.

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