Meta Platforms Inc. said today that for the time being it will allow calls for violence on the Facebook and Instagram platforms if it’s related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
This is an unusual move by the company, considering it has spent the last few years trying to scrub hate speech from its platforms while contending with politicians who have accused Meta of allowing such speech to flourish.
“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, ’Meta’s Andy Stone said in a statement. “We still won’t allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians.” The company expanded on this in an email to its moderators, obtained by 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 it is clear that the context is the Russian invasion of Ukraine (eg, content mentions the invasion, self-defense, etc.). ”
Meta went a step further, saying it would also allow people to call for the death of Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, but only if the content comes from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia or Ukraine.
The company said the death threats will only relate to an emotional statement, rather than allowing someone to write down the details of a time and a place and how the execution would take place. Meta added that it will not allow calls to kill members of the leaders’ families.
This doesn’t come as much of a surprise, given it was previously discovered that Meta was allowing praise for the ultra-right-wing Azov battalion, an outfit that has fought in the past against Russian troops but has also promoted neo-Nazism and has been accused of committing war crimes.
Meta explained that it was “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,” not in the context of promoting anti-Semitism or its other extremist views mostly relating to white supremacy.
As some people have already pointed out, this rather perplexing move by Meta amounts to the opening of one massive can of worms.