The U.S. company Meta is partially relaxing its rules for Facebook and Instagram users to allow calls for violence against the Russian government and its forces in Ukraine. The background is the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine.
"Due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we are lenient on political expression that would normally violate our rules on violent expression," Meta spokesman Andy Stone, told AFP news agency.
Stone cited "death to Russian invaders" on Twitter as an example of an exception to expressions that would normally have violated guidelines. However, he qualified, "We will continue to not allow credible calls to violence against Russian civilians."
After the relaxations were announced, the Russian Embassy in the United States reacted indignantly. The government in Washington should stop the "extremist activities" of Facebook parent Meta, the embassy demanded in a statement on Facebook.
"Meta's aggressive and criminal policies that lead to the incitement of hatred and hostility toward Russians are outrageous," it added. The company's actions, it said, are further evidence of the "information war" being waged against Russia without rules.
Russian parliamentary leader Vyacheslav Volodin said the move would have to be examined by the Russian prosecutor's office, the Tass news agency reported.
The relaxation applies only to users in some countries, including Ukraine, Russia, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Hungary, The New York Times wrote. Reuters news agency reported similarly, citing internal emails from Facebook's parent company to reviewers of reported content.
The war in Ukraine is also being fought out on the web. The West and Russia accuse each other of spreading misinformation. Supporters of the Russian invasion and opponents cover each other with hate comments, including on Facebook.
The Kremlin blocked access to Facebook last week after the group barred pro-government Russian media outlets such as RT and Sputnik in Europe due to EU sanctions. Other services of the meta-corporation, such as WhatsApp and Instagram, still work in Russia.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin is also cracking down on independent media. Journalists who publish alleged "false information" about the Russian military face long prison sentences. Numerous media outlets had stopped reporting from Russia as a result.
Because of Western sanctions against Putin, more and more international corporations are turning away from Russia. Major U.S. technology companies such as Apple and Microsoft no longer want to sell their products there, Netflix and Airbnb have also suspended their services.
Image by Thomas Ulrich