Facebook and Instagram users in some countries will be allowed to call for violence against Russian soldiers and Putin in a surprising and controversial turnaround by parent company Meta.
The social media giant has quietly taken steps to temporarily allow some posts calling for death and violence against Russian soldiers and political leaders in the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to internal emails to content moderators seen by Reuters.
The policy change will allow people in certain countries to post comments like “death to the Russian invaders.” It will also temporarily allow calls for death to the Russian president Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko – provided they are in relation to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
However, it won’t allow the comments if there are two indications the threat is credible, such as mentioning the location or method.
Previously, these statements would be banned under Meta’s hate speech policy. They will continue to ban incitements for violence against Russian civilians and Russian prisoners of war.
The changes will apply in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, and Ukraine, according to one email.
“As a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine we have temporarily made allowances for forms of political expression that would normally violate our rules like violent speech such as ‘death to the Russian invaders’. We still won’t allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians,” Meta said in a statement sent to Reuters.
Users will also be allowed to openly praise the Azov Battalion, a Ukrainian neo-Nazi military unit, according to The Intercept. It will allow comments like “Azov movement volunteers are real heroes, they are a much-needed support to our national guard," although it will continue to ban remarks such as "Well done Azov for protecting Ukraine and its white nationalist heritage.”
The Azov Battalion is a right-wing extremist military unit in the National Guard of Ukraine that open flaunts Nazi symbols and regalia. They are also accused of harboring neo-Nazi and white supremacist ideology. Previously, discussion of the ultranationalist battalion was limited under Meta’s Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy.
In response to this news, the Russian embassy in the US tweeted that Washington needs to stop the "extremist activities" of Meta.
“Users of #Facebook & #Instagram did not give the owners of these platforms the right to determine the criteria of truth and pit nations against each other,” they added.