Citing Ukraine, Facebook declares some hate speech is OK
When is “hate speech” not hate speech? When it’s directed against the approved targets, of course – at least according to Meta, the company behind Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, which just altered its censorship guidelines to allow calls for violence against Russians in certain countries.
“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’,” a spokesman for Mark Zuckerberg’s social media behemoth confirmed after Reuters cited internal company emails on Thursday.
Supposedly this won’t apply to Russian civilians – though wishing death upon President Vladimir Putin of Russia and Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus are reportedly also OK now – and the special rule will only be in effect in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, and Ukraine. So unlike a principle, which would apply to anyone, anywhere, these new carve-outs apply only against specific groups and in specific territories.
Would Meta create this exception for, say, Syria, Iran, Iraq, or Libya to allow calls for violence against Americans? Of course not. How about in Yemen, against the Saudis or Emiratis mercilessly bombing and occupying parts of the country since 2015? Not a chance. But hating Russians? That’s not just allowed, it’s encouraged – one might even say expected – in the West that has already banned Russian music, literature, and even cats.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the reports were “hard to believe,” adding that, “We hope they won’t be true, as otherwise a most vigorous action will be required to stop the activities of this company.”
His hopes were dashed, however, as Meta spokesman Andy Stone confirmed the reports as accurate.
The Russian embassy in Washington has chided Meta, saying its users “did not give the owners of these platforms the right to determine the criteria of truth and pit nations against each other.”
Well of course not – but Zuckerberg never asked the users. Just as Facebook never asked anyone about banning a sitting US president in January 2021, or censoring the iconic May 1945 photo of the Soviet flag over the Reichstag, or allowing praise of “Azov,” the notorious and openly neo-Nazi unit of the Ukrainian national guard.
Along with other Silicon Valley companies, Meta eagerly bans, suppresses, or censors viewpoints that displease the US government. The White House and the State Department have basically admitted to this on multiple occasions.
Washington technically can’t ban speech under the US constitution, but uses these supposedly private companies as proxies instead. It’s just a remarkable coincidence that Meta’s senior staff is openly sympathetic to the party currently in power – from Stone who previously worked for congressional Democrats, to Zuckerberg himself, who donated $400 million of his own money to help Joe Biden win in 2020.
American Big Tech has been on a censorship spree of US dissidents for years. Now it’s expanding this practice to global affairs, using the conflict in Ukraine as a pretext to censor any narrative they disapprove of – with the only “principle” behind the practice apparently being the Leninist “who/whom.”
In response, Russia has moved to label Meta as an “extremist organization” and block access to Instagram starting March 14. It had already blocked Facebook last week, citing Meta’s efforts to “restrict Russian media” after the banning of RT and Sputnik on the platform. The Russian authorities have clarified that they will not go after Russian citizens who use workarounds to access Meta’s products “in good faith,” however.
WhatsApp — another Meta product — is a widely used messenger, which according to Russian officials will not be affected by the ban. Instagram, according to the Financial Times correspondent Polina Ivanova, is “a much loved platform” as well as “everything” to “young Moscow elites” – the demographic most sympathetic to the West.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.