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Meta Backpedals on Policy Allowing for Calls for Violence Against Russians After Backlash

© REUTERS / DADO RUVICMeta logo is placed on a Russian flag in this illustration taken February 26, 2022
Meta logo is placed on a Russian flag in this illustration taken February 26, 2022 - Sputnik International, 1920, 14.03.2022
Meta, the internet giant that owns Facebook and Instagram, has been heavily chastised over the ‘temporary’ change to its hate speech policy allowing users in some countries to call for violence against Russian people, Russian troops, and the country’s president, while inexplicably allowing for praise of Ukraine’s neo-Nazi Azov Regiment.
Facebook and Instagram parent Meta appears to have at least partially reversed course on its freedom of hate speech policy, with a senior executive issuing a statement saying that users will remain prohibited from sharing posts calling “for the death of a head of state,” or for violence against Russians generally.
“We are now narrowing the focus to make it explicitly clear in the guidance that it is never to be interpreted as condoning violence against Russians in general,” Meta president of global affairs Nick Clegg assured in an internal post seen by Bloomberg.
The revised hate speech policy is applicable only in Ukraine, and “only in the context of speech regarding the Russian military invasion of Ukraine,” according to the Meta executive.
“We also do not permit calls to assassinate a head of state,” Clegg added, without mentioning the Russian or Belarusian presidents –both of whom were previously deemed fair game for death threats, by name.
Meta announced Thursday that it would temporarily look the other way to hate speech on its platforms over the crisis in Ukraine, with Facebook and Instagram users in nine countries in Eastern Europe allowed to call for violence against Russians generally, Russian troops, Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko. The company assured that it “still won’t allow credible calls for violence” against Russian civilians to be made.
Meta logo and Russian flag are seen through broken glass in this illustration taken March 1, 2022. - Sputnik International, 1920, 11.03.2022
Meta Will Allow Calls for Violence Against Russians & Praise of Neo-Nazi Azov Battalion - Reports
In a related development, the company also allowed for praise of Ukraine’s openly neo-Nazi Azov regiment – a unit of the Ukrainian National Guard which the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights had previously condemned for war crimes including kidnapping, torture and mass looting.
The Russian Embassy in the US slammed Meta’s “aggressive and criminal policy leading to incitement of hatred and hostility toward Russians” as “outrageous,” and called on Washington to “stop the extremist activities of Meta and take measures to bring the perpetrators to justice.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said that a ban on Facebook and Instagram would be appropriate amid the scandal. On Friday, the Russian investigative committee promised to open a criminal case against the company, while the Russian general prosecutor’s office called for Facebook and Instagram to be blocked.
The outcry over Meta’s freedom of hate speech policy comes amid a general rise in violence against and discrimination of Russians across Europe and North America over Moscow’s ongoing demilitarization operation in Ukraine. Recent weeks have witnessed attacks on Russian diplomatic missions abroad, attempts to ban Russian classical literature in universities, hate crimes and online harassment of Russian nationals living abroad, and attacks on Russian-themed venues.
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