On March 10, Reuters broke the story that Meta will allow Facebook and Instagram users in some countries to call for violence against Russians and Russian soldiers in the context of the Ukraine invasion. Internal emails seen by Reuters investigators showed the temporary change to Meta’s hate speech policy. The Reuters investigation found that Meta allowed users to post death threats against Putin and his ally — Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko — because of the invasion. Meta later clarified that users cannot, however, make posts calling for the assassination of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin or other heads of state.
Russia has opened a criminal inquiry into Meta because of the change in its hate speech policy and the restriction of Russian users’ access to Instagram. Russian authorities petitioned a court to label the U.S. tech giant an “extremist group.” Meta noted that the temporary adjustment was intended to allow for types of political expression that would ordinarily be prohibited under company regulations. Its governing board stated that it is closely monitoring the conflict in Ukraine and how Meta is responding to it.
The United Nations, on Friday, denounced Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta Platforms for allowing hateful remarks and calls for violence against the Russian military. During a press conference on March 11, U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said, “I can tell you, from our standpoint, we stand clearly against all hate speech, all calls for violence. That kind of language is just unacceptable, from whichever quarter it comes from.” Meta responded through their President for Global Affairs stating, “The fact is, if we applied our standard content policies without any adjustments we would now be removing content from ordinary Ukrainians expressing their resistance and fury at the invading military forces, which would rightly be viewed as unacceptable.”
This report exemplifies Meta’s harmful policy-changing process, where corporate officials secretly amend policies whenever they see fit. Social media companies should never allow their users to advocate violence. This change will undoubtedly bring increased attacks against regular Russians. While this announcement is dangerous, the Right’s attempts to spin it to justify their use of racial slurs are unconscionable. Republicans’ hate speech regarding the origin of Covid-19 directly contributed to the massive spike in hate crimes against the AAPI community.
It seems highly ironic that the same Democrats that said calling Covid “China Virus” would spark Asian hate, now openly call for violent rhetoric against Russians. If social media companies can make special rules to target a group of people, there is nothing stopping them from doing it to you. We should have a free, fair, and open internet without censorship or targeted campaigns.