Facebook temporarily allows calls to violence against Russia in certain countries

Meta temporarily allows Facebook and Instagram users in some countries to post messages calling for violence against Russian soldiers or government in the context of the invasion of Ukraine. Threats against Russian citizens remain prohibited.

Facebook parent company Meta is temporarily relaxing the content moderation rules on the platforms. Among other things, the social media company temporarily allows some posts calling for the death of Russian soldiers, Russian President Vladimir Putin or President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus. That writes the Reuters news agency, which is based on internal e-mails from the company to its content moderators.

A spokesperson for Meta has confirmed the temporary policy change. “As a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we have temporarily allowed forms of political expression that would normally violate our rules, such as violent expressions such as ‘death to the Russian invaders’,” the spokesman told Reuters.

Messages inciting violence should only be addressed to Russian military and government leaders in the context of the invasion of Ukraine, and not to citizens of Russia. The messages should also not be addressed to prisoners of war. Furthermore, such violent messages are not allowed if they contain other targets or have two ‘indicators’ that increase the ‘credibility’ of a threat. Such indicators include, for example, a location or method.

The changes apply to users in a number of countries. According to Reuters, these are Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia and Ukraine. It is not known until when the change will remain in effect. The Russian Embassy in the USA demands on Twitter Washington to end Meta’s “extremist activities.” Russia blocked access to social media like Facebook earlier this week because of ‘discrimination’ against Russian media.

It doesn’t appear to be the first time Facebook has made such a policy change. VICE reported in 2021 that Facebook moderators were previously given similar temporary instructions over messages against Iran’s supreme leader Khamenei. That change was in effect for two weeks. A spokesperson said that Facebook had also implemented specific exceptions in certain previous cases.