Meta Platforms is temporarily suspending its “hate speech” rules to allow calls for violence against invading Russian forces to be disseminated on Facebook and Instagram. Internal documents say the social media giant will also permit calling for the deaths of Russian President Vladimir Putin or Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
In a statement, a company spokesperson said its censors would allow such expressions as “death to the Russian invaders.” Still, the calls cannot reference the target’s specific location or a method of death. The violent speech cannot be towards prisoners of war and users will not make “credible calls for violence” against civilians.
The change allows for advocating violence from Ukraine, Russia, Poland, Estonia, Hungary and other neighboring countries. Russia predictably has banned Facebook and “restricted” Twitter within its borders. The Russian embassy in the US also demands the Biden administration crackdown on “extremist activities” on Facebook.
Also notable is that Facebook will permit praise of Ukraine’s controversial Azov battalion in the context of defending the country or their role in the Ukrainian National Guard. The all-volunteer infantry military group is accused of white supremacist and neo-Nazi ideology and Putin cites it in his otherwise baseless excuse of invading Ukraine for “denazification” purposes.
Azov has been fighting Russian nationalists and separatists in Ukraine. A recent video shows a masked man greasing bullets with pig fat to show Russian fighters who may be Chechen Muslims that they “will not go to heaven.”
A little consistency from Facebook would be helpful. Is a social media company qualified to judge political messages and motivations?
It’s tough to disagree with this policy reversal as Ukrainians are fighting for their existence and use social media to rally defenders and share vital information. However, Facebook decides what is permissible and may lead to violent acts is anything but consistent.
US conservatives have long accused Facebook of using the ever-changing definition of “hate speech” to silence legitimate political discussion and being dominated by employees who disproportionately censor conservative viewpoints.
As the COVID-19 pandemic spread around the globe, the company banned even the slightest suggestion that the virus was artificial and users could be sentenced to “Facebook jail” for suggesting COVID leaked from a Wuhan lab.
Chinese origin for the coronavirus was a “conspiracy theory” that had to be stifled as long as President Trump said it. Still, when President Biden later opened a probe into the possibility of the Wuhan lab origin, Facebook scrapped its ban.
A little consistency, please.