Will Facebook become a place where anything goes? Against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, its parent company, Meta, has announced that it is modifying its moderation rules authorizing calls for hatred against Russian soldiers and Vladimir Putin, even calling for their death. A major change that means a lot for the social network which, until now, has avoided taking sides.
What are the new rules?
Meta has revised its moderation rules to temporarily allow hate speech against Russian soldiers. “We have temporarily allowed forms of political expression that would normally violate our rules, such as violent speech such as Death to the Russian invaders »confirmed Andy Stone, a spokesperson for the firm in a statement posted on Twitter, after revelations from the Reuters news agency.
In addition to calls for hatred against Russian soldiers, they are also authorized against political leaders, such as Russian President Vladimir Putin or Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, reports the Washington Post. In the same idea, last week, Meta announced that it was changing its rules to praise the Azov regiment, a far-right and neo-Nazi unit, integrated into the Ukrainian army – which had been banned since 2019.
However, insulting and calling for hatred against the Russian army is not permitted for everyone. According to information from Reuters, these new rules only come into force in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia and Ukraine, countries close to the conflict. Insulting Russian civilians as well as Russian military prisoners (as prohibited by the laws of war) remains prohibited, however, specifies Meta.
Is this a first?
Difficult to know if the practice is widespread as Meta remains discreet on the subject. Last summer, however, US newspaper Motherboard revealed that Facebook had allowed hate messages against Iranian leader Ali Khamenei for two weeks as the country was rocked by anti-government protests. “Over the next two weeks, we will allow the use of ‘death to Khamenei’ in the context of political protests in Iran,” the firm had explained, believing that “Khamenei” corresponded to defining the regime. Meta then said that he had already made this exception, without specifying when.
Variability in moderation rules, however, is nothing new at Meta. In an article published in September, the Wall Street Journal claimed that according to the profile of users, the moderation rules were not the same. When some exempt from the rules, others can post messages breaking the rules, before they are reviewed by a job (when they are deleted directly for ordinary users).
Why does Meta get so wet?
It may come as a surprise to see Meta take such a step, as the group is often criticized for being too weak on hate speech. The decision is all the more rare since, by authorizing calls for hatred against Russia only, Meta is very clearly taking sides in the conflict.
Russia, through its embassy in the United States, has asked the owner of Facebook to end its “extremist activities”. “Meta’s aggressive and criminal policy leading to incitement to hatred and hostility towards Russians is outrageous,” she wrote in a statement. “The company’s actions are further evidence of the declared unruly information war against our country,” she added.
Russia on Friday announced that it would prosecute the firm for “calling for the murders” of Russians. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern about this announcement. “This is very clearly a very, very complex subject, but one which raises concerns in terms of human rights and international humanitarian law”, explained Elizabeth Throssel, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. male.
Russia blocked Facebook last week after the social network decided to ban Russian media close to the government. At the end of February, a few days after the start of the Russian invasion, access to the social network had already been limited by Moscow. Facebook then refused to respond to the Russian request to end the fact-checking of content posted by these same media. This Friday, Instagram joined Facebook on the bench of networks blocked by the Kremlin.