Social media giant Meta Platforms, Inc. have eased their hate speech policy to allow Facebook and Instagram users in some countries to call for violence against Russians and Russian soldiers amidst the ongoing Ukraine-Russia war.
According to internal emails accessed by Reuters on Thursday, Meta Inc. has made temporary changes to its hate speech policy to allow users to post content that calls for violence, including a call for death to Russian President Vladimir Putin or 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 the Russian invaders.’ We still won’t allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians,” a Meta spokesperson said in a statement.
The internal email accessed by Reuters also said that the Meta would allow posts that call for the death of Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko only if they did not contain other targets or discuss methods or locations.
The temporary policy changes on calls for violence to Russian soldiers will apply in countries such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, and Ukraine, reports Reuters.
“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-defence, etc.),” Meta highlighted a change in its hate speech policy in its email.
Emails also showed that Meta would allow praise of the pro-Nazi Azov battalion, which is normally prohibited, in a change first reported by The Intercept.
Defending its decision to allow hate speech, the Meta stated the company is doing this because they 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, it claimed.
This comes after Russia had announced that it was banning Facebook in the country after the tech giant had enforced restrictions on Russian media on its platform. The Kremlin had cracked down on tech companies, including Twitter, over their arbitrary restriction of Russian state media RT and Sputnik regulations.
Meta spokesman Joe Osborne also said the company was “for the time being, making a narrow exception for the praise of the Azov Regiment strictly in the context of defending Ukraine, or in their role as part of the Ukraine National Guard.”