Facebook owner Meta said on Friday that only Ukraine needed a temporary change in its content policy so that users could oppose the Russian invasion, as the company said it would allow posts such as “Death to Russians” after Russia opened a criminal case against the invaders.
Russian prosecutors have asked a court to designate the US technology giant as an “extremist organization” and the communications regulator has said it will restrict access to Meter Instagram from March 14. The agency said the decision would affect Russia’s 80 million users.
“A criminal case has been launched … involving illegal calls for murder and violence against citizens of the Russian Federation by employees of the American company Metar, which owns the social networks Facebook and Instagram,” Russia’s Investigative Committee said.
The committee reports directly to President Vladimir Putin. It was not immediately clear what the outcome of the criminal case might be.
Nick Clegg, president of Meta Global Affairs, responded to the Russian government’s move with a tweet, saying that the organization aims to protect the right to speech as an expression of self-defense in response to the Ukrainian attack, and that the policy only applies to Ukraine.
“If we apply our standard content policies without any adjustment, we will now remove the content of resistance and resentment against the invading military from ordinary Ukrainians, which would be rightly seen as unacceptable,” Clegg wrote.
“We have no dispute with the Russian people. As far as the Russian people are concerned, there is no change in our policy on hate speech,” he added.
Two weeks of Russia’s war in Ukraine, a Meta spokesman Says On Thursday, the company temporarily changed its rules for political discourse, allowing posts such as “Death to Russian invaders” although it would not allow calls for violence against Russian civilians.
Meta says the goal of the temporary change is to allow forms of political expression that would normally violate its rules.
Its oversight board said Friday that it had been briefed by the company on Ukraine-related policies and that the context was important for content policy and enforcement.
Internal meta-emails previously seen by Reuters say that Russia has applied temporary policy changes to its markets calling for violence: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia.
A Meta spokesman declined to comment other than Clegg’s statement.
Emails seen by Reuters also show that the US agency temporarily allowed the post, calling for the death of Putin or Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “We hope this is not true because if it is true, it will mean the most decisive action to end this company.”
Russia has been working for more than a year to curb the influence of US tech giants, including Google and Twitter, who have repeatedly fined them for approving what they consider to be illegal content.
But Ukraine’s aggression – due to a storm of international condemnation and unprecedented sanctions – has sharply scarred the information war.
Social media provides an opportunity for dissent against Putin’s line – followed by loyally strictly controlled state media – that Moscow was forced to launch its “special military operation” to defend against the Russian-speaking genocide in Ukraine and to disarm and “exclude” the country. .
The committee of inquiry said that Facebook’s move could violate articles of Russian criminal law against public calls for extremist activity.
“Such actions by the management of the (meta) company not only create the impression that terrorist activity is allowed, but also aimed at inciting hatred and enmity towards the citizens of the Russian Federation,” the state prosecutor’s office said.
It said it had applied to a court to recognize Meta as an extremist organization and to ban its activities in Russia.
Other meter services are also popular in Russia. According to researcher Insider Intelligence, Facebook had an estimated 7.5 million users last year and WhatsApp 67 million.
Last week, Russia said it was banning Facebook in the country in response to restrictions on Russian media access to the platform.
Instagram is a favorite tool of jailed Putin’s opponent Alexei Navalny, who in a message posted through his lawyers and supporters on Friday called on the Russians to join the protest against the Ukraine war and “crazy Putin” this weekend.
WhatsApp will not be affected by legal action, Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency quoted a source as saying that the messaging app was considered a means of communication and not a way to post information.
Thomson Reuters 2022