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Facebook and Instagram to allow users 'in some countries' to call for violence against Russians

The platforms will enable users to call for violence against Russians in general and Russian soldiers 'in the context of the Ukrainian invasion' as a 'temporary' change to the platforms’ hate speech policy prohibiting calls for violence and incitement.

Facebook and Instagram to allow users 'in some countries' to call for violence against Russians
AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky
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Meta Platforms-owned social media companies Facebook and Instagram will allow users “in some countries” to call for violence against Russians according to internal emails leaked to Reuters.

The publication reports that the platforms will enable users to call for violence against Russians in general and Russian soldiers “in the context of the Ukrainian invasion” as a “temporary” change to the platforms’ hate speech policy prohibiting calls for violence and incitement.

The Big Tech giant is also allowing posts that call for the death to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in countries including Russia, Ukraine, and Poland, said the email instructions, which were addressed 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,” Reuters reported.

“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.”

It is unclear how the content moderators will be able to differentiate general calls for violence against those of Russian descent, such as members of the country’s diaspora in Europe, Asia, and North America.

The temporary policy changes reportedly apply to Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Russia and Ukraine.

Russia has placed a temporary ban on Facebook in response to restrictions imposed by Meta Platforms on the country’s media outlets. Moscow also cracked down on access to Twitter, which also imposed restrictions on Russian outlets and official government accounts.

Reuters reports that the internal emails also showed that Facebook and Instagram allow praise of Ukrainian neo-Nazi organizations like the militant Azov Battalion, which has been accused by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) of committing war crimes, including sexual violence and torture.

Praise of extremist organizations is normally prohibited.

Speaking to Reuters, a Meta spokesman said that the company is “for the time being, making a narrow exception for praise of the Azov Regiment strictly in the context of defending Ukraine, or in their role as part of the Ukraine National Guard.”

Facebook, Instagram and Twitter previously banned former U.S. president Donald Trump for having the potential to “provoke further violence” following the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, in violation of the platforms’ rules.

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