Facebook and Instagram will temporarily allow users in certain countries to call for violence against Russia, and Belarus, according to emails obtained by Reuters on Thursday, March 10.

In a temporary change to its hate policy, Meta Platforms will let users from Ukraine, Russia, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania call for the death of the Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

A Meta spokesman stated, “As a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine we have temporarily made allowances for forms of political expression that would normally violate our rules like violent speech such as ‘death to the Russian invaders.’ We still won’t allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians.'”

An email Meta sent to moderators explains the policy change clarifying “the context is the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” and calling for the death of leaders will not be allowed in cases that contain other targets or include location or method.

“We are issuing a spirit-of-the-policy allowance to allow T1 violent speech that would otherwise be removed under the Hate Speech policy when:

  • Targeting Russian soldiers, EXCEPT prisoners of war;
  • Targeting Russians where it’s clear that the context is the Russian invasion of Ukraine (e.g., content mentions the invasion, self-defense, etc.).”

“We are doing this because we have observed that in this specific context, ‘Russian soldiers’ is being used as a proxy for the Russian military. The Hate Speech policy continues to prohibit attacks on Russians.”

Meta says, however, that it will not allow calls for violence against Russian civilians.

Meanwhile, Russia said it was banning Facebook in the country in response to restrictions on access to Russian media on the platform. 

Several social media companies had announced content restrictions following the entry of Russian troops into Ukraine, which included blocking Russian state media RT and Sputnik in Europe.

The Kremlin has also cracked down on other tech companies, including Twitter.

But Meta’s recent temporary policy change generated a wave of criticism on the networks, according to Fox News. 

Newsweek opinion editor Josh Hammer noted, “Yet Donald Trump is still banned.”

While The Nation columnist Jeet Heer tweeted, “If you’re willing to adjust your principles in a crisis, they weren’t really principles.”

In a statement Meta gave to Fox News Digital, Meta said, “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.'” 

“These are temporary measures designed to preserve voice and expression for people who are facing invasion. As always, we are prohibiting calls for violence against Russians outside of the narrow context of the current invasion,” he concluded.

Meanwhile, the Russian embassy in the U.S. reacted strongly to Meta’s actions in a tweet, “We demand that U.S. authorities stop the extremist activities of Meta, take measures to bring the perpetrators to justice.

“Users of Facebook & Instagram did not give the owners of these platforms the right to determine the criteria of truth and pit nations against each other,” it added.

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