Facebook’s parent company Meta confirmed on Thursday that it will temporarily allow users affected by the war in Ukraine to publish posts calling for violence against “Russian invaders.” This change is an update to the company’s hate speech policy, which bars users from publishing violent posts.
“In light of the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, we made a temporary exception for those affected by war, to express violent sentiments toward invading armed forces such as “death to the Russian invaders,” a Meta spokesperson said in a statement to CBS News.
The spokesperson said the policy change is “designed to preserve voice and expression for people who are facing invasion.”
The policy update will allow violent posts that refer to the war in Ukraine and are directed at the Russian government and military. It’s intended to give Ukrainians a chance to defend their country on social media.
The development was first reported by Reuters.
In response, Russian prosecutors on Friday asked a Russian court to label Meta as an extremist organization, according to reports from Interfax, Russia’s independent news agency.
Russia’s federal body responsible for supervising the media also issued a statement Friday saying that Instagram, which is also owned by Meta, will be banned in the country starting next week.
Meta vice president of global affairs Nick Clegg said on Friday that policy updates to allow users affected by the war to publish calls for violence are “focused on protecting people’s right to speech as an expression of self-defense in reaction to a military invasion of their country.”
Clegg said if Meta applied its standard content moderation policies, it would be forced to remove content from Ukrainians expressing “resistance and fury at the invading military forces.” Clegg said Meta would be rightly criticized if it didn’t provide an exception.
He added that the policy only applies in Ukraine and that Meta has “no quarrel with the Russian people.”
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began, Meta and Russian authorities have been at odds. Late last month, Meta said it would refuse to comply with orders from Russian authorities to stop fact-checking posts on the platform from Russian state-owned media organizations.
As a result, Meta said Russia had begun to throttle its services in the country.
Meta also took down a coordinated Russian influence operation that targeted Ukrainians across Facebook and Instagram in late February. The company said the disinformation campaign had ties to another Russian network in the Donbas region that had previously been banned from Facebook in April 2020.
At the same time, Meta also said it had uncovered and banned a group of hackers with ties to Belarus who were attempting to compromise the accounts of influential Ukrainians, including journalists and high-ranking military officials.
The new policy change allowing users to write posts calling for violence against Russian invaders comes less than a week after Russia blocked access to Facebook and other social media platforms, including Twitter. Users in Russia may, however, still access Instagram and WhatsApp, which are also owned by Meta.
Meta said last week that it’s working to keep its services available in Russia “to the greatest extent possible” and announced that it will pause ads targeting people in Russia. Advertisers within Russia are also unable to create or run ads anywhere in the world, including within Russia.