Two weeks after Facebook users were given the green light to praise Ukraine’s openly neo-nazi military unit, the Azov Batallion, the Meta formerly known as Facebook will allow posts on Facebook and Instagram, from a handful of countries, calling for violence against ‘Russians and Russian soldiers’ when discussing the Ukraine invasion, according to Reuters, citing internal emails that someone felt strongly enough about to leak to the media.
In a temporary change to its hate speech policy, the social media company will also allow people who live in Russia, Ukraine and Poland to call for the death of Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, according to emails sent to the company’s content moderators.
These calls for the leaders’ deaths will be allowed unless they contain other targets or have two indicators of credibility, such as the location or method, one email said, in a recent change to the company’s rules on violence and incitement.
The emails said calls for violence against Russians are allowed when the post is clearly talking about the invasion of Ukraine. They said the calls for violence against Russian soldiers were allowed because this was being used as a proxy for the Russian military, and said it would not apply to prisoners of war. -Reuters
The temporary change to its hate speech policy applies to users living in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Ukraine and Russia, although that may be moot since Facebook is now banned in Russia after accusing the platform of censoring Russian media. The move came amid a spate of similar restrictions among large social media firms, including Twitter. Affected outlets include RT and Sputnik in Europe.
Last month The Intercept reported that Facebook reversed a ‘Dangerous Individuals and Organizations’ ban on Ukraine’s Azov Batallion – Ukraine’s neo-nazi military unit.
According to the report, the Azov regiment – which functions as an armed wing of the broader Ukrainian white nationalist Azov movement – is classified as a “Tier 1” dangerous organization under FB policy, alongside the likes of ISIS and the KKK. It began as a volunteer anti-Russia militia before officially joining the Ukrainian National Guard in 2014, and is known for its hardcore ultranationalist views and neo-Nazi ideology.
The group was formally banned by Facebook in 2019, and designated (along with several individuals) under the company’s prohibition against hate groups – subject to their harshest “Tier 1” restrictions that ban users from “praise, support, or representation” of blacklisted groups across all company-owned platforms.
It is unclear what liability Facebook will face if as a result of its hate speech policy changes, other Russians besides the “targeted” ones, end up killed.