Meta spokesperson Andy Stone said: "Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we temporarily allowed forms of political expression that would normally violate our rules, such as violent speech like 'death to Russian invaders.' We still won’t allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians."
The eased policy applies to most post-Soviet countries and their neighbors, including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia and Ukraine.
Detailing the parameters of the new policy, Meta said in its email that the company is issuing a spirit-of-the-policy allowance to allow T1 violent or hate speech.
T1 hate speech, or "Tier 1" content, targets a person or a group of people on the basis of their "protected characteristics" such as race or ethnicity. This content could include (a) violent speech or support in written or visual form; (b) dehumanizing speech or imagery in the form of comparisons, generalizations or unqualified behavioral statements; (c) mocking the concept, events or victims of hate crimes despite having no real person depicted in an image; and (d) designated dehumanizing comparisons, generalizations or behavioral statements. (Related: Sanctions may end up isolating Russia's internet; Russians flocking to VPNs to bypass censors.)
However, Facebook does frequently change its content-moderation rules, to the extent that it has been criticized by its own Oversight Board.
In one instance, it was pointed out that the company created an exception to its hate speech rules for world leaders, but was never clear which leaders got the exception or why. It also allowed users to post calls for the death of Russian President Vladimir Putin or Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, according to internal emails to its content moderators.
Meta said it takes its role "in keeping abuse off the service" seriously. Official policy on hate speech mentioned that it believes in people using their voice to connect more freely when they don't feel attacked based on who they are. This is why hate speech was not allowed. Moreover, it creates an environment of intimidation and exclusion, and in some cases, may even promote offline violence.
It even suspended the account of President Donald Trump in the wake of the January 6, 2021 riots. While the Oversight Board said the decision was correct, it did so without a clear rationale or plan.
Meta was also harshly criticized for being lenient during the George Floyd riots of 2020, which became the most destructive and violent protests in American history.
The company has also announced that it was changing its rules to allow users to praise the neo-Nazi "Azov" Ukrainian military unit, which was previously banned from being freely discussed under the company's "Dangerous Individuals and Organizations" policy. However, since it is now a part of Ukraine's attempt to repel the invasion, Meta took a 180-degree turn on the matter.
In response to the policy changes toward the Russian president, the Kremlin called the tech company an "extremist" and called on U.S. authorities to intervene. (Related: Russia blocks access to Facebook, accuses it of discriminating against state-owned media outlets.)
The Russian Embassy in the United States went on Twitter, saying: "We demand that [U.S.] authorities stop the extremist activities of @Meta, take measures to bring the perpetrators to justice. Users of #Facebook & #Instagram did not give the owners of these platforms the right to determine the criteria of truth and pit nations against each other."
The Russian Prosecutor General's Office also called for a criminal investigation against Meta, citing Russian propaganda and extremism laws. The nation's state media watchdog said Meta-owned Instagram will also be blocked due to "calls for violence" against Russian troops.
Follow WWIII.news for more updates on the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
Watch the video below for more information about Facebook's new policy.