Facebook-Parent Meta Defends Policy on Calls for Violence That Angered Russia

Facebook proprietor Meta stated on Friday {that a} momentary change to its Ukraine-only content material coverage was wanted to permit customers to oppose Russia’s assault, as Russia has opened a felony case after the corporate stated it could permit posts comparable to ‘demise to Russian’. invaders.”

Russian prosecutors have asked a court to designate the US tech giant as an “extremist group”, and the communications regulator has said it will restrict access to Meta’s Instagram from March 14. The company said the decision would affect 80 million users in Russia.

“A felony case has been opened (…) in reference to unlawful requires homicide and violence in opposition to residents of the Russian Federation by staff of the American firm Meta, proprietor of the social networks Facebook and Instagram”, said the Russian investigative commission.

The committee reports directly to President Vladimir Putin. It was not immediately clear what the consequences of the criminal case might be.

Meta Global Affairs President Nick Clegg responded to the Russian government’s action with a tweeted statement saying the company aimed to protect the right to speech as an expression of self-defense in response to the invasion of Ukraine and that the policy applied only to Ukraine.

“If we applied our standard content policies without any adjustments, we would now remove content from ordinary Ukrainians expressing their resistance and fury against invading military forces, which would rightly be considered unacceptable,” Clegg wrote.

“We now have no quarrel with the Russian individuals. There isn’t a change in our insurance policies on hate speech with regard to the Russian individuals,” he added.

Two weeks into Russia’s war in Ukraine, a spokesperson for Meta noted The company had temporarily changed its rules on political speech on Thursday, allowing messages such as “demise to Russian invaders”, although it does not allow calls for violence against Russian civilians.

Meta said the temporary change was intended to allow forms of political expression that would normally violate its rules.

Its supervisory board said on Friday that it had been briefed by the company on Ukraine-related policies and that context was important to content policies and their application.

Internal Meta emails previously seen by Reuters indicated that the temporary policy changes on calls for violence against Russian soldiers had applied to the following markets: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia and Ukraine. .

A Meta spokesperson declined to comment beyond Clegg’s statement.

Emails seen by Reuters also showed the US company had temporarily cleared posts calling for the death of Putin or Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

“We hope this isn’t true, as a result of whether it is true, it would imply that essentially the most decisive measures should be taken to place an finish to the actions of this firm,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry said. Peskov.

Information wars

For more than a year, Russia has worked to limit the influence of US tech giants including Google and Alphabet’s Twitter, repeatedly fining them for allowing what it considers content illegal.

But the invasion of Ukraine – met by an unprecedented storm of international condemnation and sanctions – has raised the stakes for information warfare sharply.

Social media provides an opportunity for dissent against Putin’s line – faithfully followed by tightly controlled state media – that Moscow was forced to launch its “particular army operation” to defend Russian-speakers in Ukraine from genocide and to demilitarize and “denazify” the country.

The investigative committee said Facebook’s decision could violate Russian criminal law articles against public calls for extremist activity.

“Such actions by the administration of the corporate (Meta) not solely give the impression that terrorist exercise is permitted, however are supposed to incite hatred and enmity in the direction of the residents of the Russian Federation,” he said. said the district attorney’s office.

He said he asked a court to recognize Meta as an extremist organization and ban its activities in Russia.

Meta’s other services are also popular in Russia. Last year, Facebook had about 7.5 million users and WhatsApp 67 million, according to researcher Insider Intelligence.

Last week, Russia said it was banning Facebook in the country in response to what it said were restrictions on access to Russian media on the platform.

Instagram is the favorite tool of imprisoned Putin opponent Alexei Navalny, who used it in a post Friday through his lawyers and supporters to call on Russians to join anti-war protests in Ukraine and “Putin’s madman” this weekend.

WhatsApp will not be affected by the legal measures, Russian news agency RIA quoted a source as saying, as the messaging app is considered a means of communication and not a means of publishing information.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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