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Facebook Allows Users to Post Violent Speech against Russia

Meta has permitted Facebook and Instagram users from certain locations to advocate violent speech towards Russian forces in the wake of the Ukraine invasion. Russia has wreaked havoc in Ukraine since its invasion in February. The international community has condemned the move by Russia, slamming it with various economic sanctions and bans. So many brands with a global presence have also stopped doing business in Russia. The tech giant also took action by suspending its rules for the Russian invaders. It allowed extreme forms of political expression from the users of certain countries posting words like “death to Russian invaders”. However, calls for violence against the Russian people are still not allowed.

Who Can Use Violent Speech against Russia on Facebook?

According to reports, not everyone can use violent speech against Russian troops. Meta has only made such speech credible if it comes from a specific country. As per emails received by the content moderators, the calls for death to Vladimir Putin (President of Russia) and Alexander Lukashenko (President of Belarus) are being allowed on Meta platforms in Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Estonia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Latvia, Lithuania, Georgia, and Romania. The temporary shift in policy does not apply to users from countries other than these. Moreover, the calls regarding inflicting harm to the Russian leaders were also deemed credible on the basis of “location and method”.

Spirit of the Policy

Meta said that it was issuing the allowance of “Spirit of the Policy” to prevent Tier 1 violent speech from being removed under the Hate Speech policy. It applies when the user targets Russian soldiers (excluding war prisoners) in the context of the Ukraine invasion.

The temporary update to Meta’s Hate Speech Policy is intended to provide Ukraine and its supporters a chance to put up some defiance on social media. They can advocate violence in their posts as long as it targets the Russian government and its allies that support it against Ukraine.

Problems between Russia and Meta

Problems between Russian authorities and Meta have intensified since the Ukraine invasion last month. Russia ordered Meta to stop fact-checking its state-affiliated media posts on Facebook and Instagram. Facebook reportedly refused and stated that Russia had started to choke its services in the country. Last year in September, Russia imposed a 1.24 million USD fine on Meta for failing to remove “illegal” content on Facebook. Now after invading Ukraine, Russia blocked access to social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter but Meta’s Instagram and WhatsApp remained accessible for users in Russia.

Meta has also been taking action against several Russian operations. According to reports, last month it took down a coordinated Russian disinformation network targeting Ukrainians across Facebook and Instagram. It was allegedly linked to another Russian network in the Donbas region that Facebook previously banned in 2020. Meta simultaneously claimed that it had identified and stopped Belarusian hackers who were trying to target influential journalists and military officials in Ukraine. The tech giant also claimed to keep its services as available as possible in Russia. However, it has announced to pause ads that target people in Russia. Moreover, it will also stop Russian advertisers from creating and running ads anywhere in the world. The Russian government has not responded to Meta’s encouragement of violent speech against invaders.

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