Meta Platforms Violate Own Rules Over Russia-Ukraine War Content

March 15, 2022 CEP Staff

U.S.-Sanctioned Pro-Russian Extremists And Pro-Violence Hate Speech Permitted On Facebook And Instagram

As the Russia-Ukraine war continues, Meta Platforms—the parent company to Facebook and Instagram—has been found to have violated its own terms of service. Several pro-Russian extremists, including those that have been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department, have maintained active accounts on the popular social media platforms. According to whistleblower complaints, the accounts allegedly allowed the users to spread Russian propaganda, recruit fighters, and solicit funds. At the same time, Meta has incredibly announced that it will allow Facebook and Instagram users in some countries to call for violence against Russians and Russian soldiers, despite he tech firm’s hate speech policy, which would typically remove violent and and inciting content.

“The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) has consistently called for clear and consistent content moderation policies that target the ‘worst of the worst’ material, specifically content created by and in support of designated terrorist organizations and individuals. Persons and groups on U.S. government sanctions lists certainly represent the ‘worst of the worst,’” said Executive Director David Ibsen. “Moreover, by allowing exceptions to its hate speech policies, Meta is demonstrating how fickle the creation and enforcement of its own community guidelines can be. Such ad hoc changes undercut the effectiveness of what should be thoughtful and durable policies—ultimately undermining user safety.”

According to whistleblower complaints filed to the U.S. Justice and Treasury Departments, Aleksandr Zaldostanov, who maintains Facebook and Instagram accounts, was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2014 for threatening “the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine.” The Night Wolves, a biker group led by Zaldostanov that supported local Crimeans against the Ukrainian government, is also listed by the Treasury Department and is believed to have been closely connected to Russian special services and helped recruit separatist fighters for Donetsk and Luhansk, Ukraine.

Last week, Meta said in internal emails that it would temporarily change its hate speech policy to allow calls for violence against Russians and Russian soldiers for users in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, and Ukraine. Emails also showed that Meta would permit praising of the Azov Regiment, which has had links to far-right movements.

To read CEP’s resource Russia: Extremism and Terrorism, please click here.

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