As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine grinds on, Meta is temporarily changing its policies to allow users on Facebook and Instagram to post calls for violence against—and even the deaths of—Russian soldiers and political figures, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
“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 Russian invaders,’” Meta spokesperson Andy Stone said on Twitter. “We still won’t allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians.”
The temporary policy exception was recently sent to Facebook and Instagram moderators, and emails detailing the change were revealed by Reuters. The exceptions mark the social media company’s latest attempt to adapt to the shifting geopolitical situation.
“We are issuing a spirit-of-the-policy allowance to allow T1 violent speech that would otherwise be removed under the Hate Speech policy when: (a) targeting Russian soldiers, EXCEPT prisoners of war, or (b) targeting Russians where it’s clear that the context is the Russian invasion of Ukraine (e.g., content mentions the invasion, self-defense, etc.),” the email said. “We are doing this because we have observed that in this specific context, ‘Russian soldiers’ is being used as a proxy for the Russian military. The Hate Speech policy continues to prohibit attacks on Russians.”
The change apparently only applies to users in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, and Ukraine.
Meta also is allowing for some praise of the Azov Battalion, a right-wing extremist militia that is fighting Russian soldiers in the eastern Donbas region, The Intercept reported. The exception is “strictly in the context of defending Ukraine or in their role as part of the Ukraine National Guard,” a Meta spokesperson told Reuters.
In response, the Russian government has opened an investigation into Meta and is looking to designate the company as an “extremist organization.”
“Meta’s aggressive and criminal policy leading to incitement of hatred and hostility toward Russians is outrageous,” the Russian Embassy in Washington, DC, said. “We demand that the US authorities stop the extremist activities of Meta and take measures to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
Ars has contacted Meta for further comment and clarification. We will update this article if we receive a reply.