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Russia wants to label Meta “extremist organization”

Updated: Mar 23, 2022

This is a reaction to Meta temporarily permitting limited hate speech within the context of the Russia-Ukraine crisis

Refugees struggle to board a train at Lviv's main station, Ukraine, on March 09, 2022. Photo by Gustavo Basso/NurPhoto via REUTERS
Refugees struggle to board a train at Lviv's main station, Ukraine, on March 09, 2022. Photo by Gustavo Basso/NurPhoto via REUTERS

Amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, its social media front is also heating up. After Moscow blocked access to Facebook from Russia 10 days ago – it is now looking to designate Meta, the parent company, as an “extremist organization” following a temporary change that would allow violent speech in a limited context.

On Friday, Reuters broke the story that Meta will allow Facebook and Instagram to “call for violence against Russia and Russian soldiers in the context of the Ukraine invasion” – the temporarily changing its hate policy speech.

Reuters also reported that Meta will temporary allow on its platforms some posts that “call for the death of Russian President Vladimir Putin or Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.”

“We demand that US authorities stop the extremist activities of Meta, take measures to bring the perpetrators to justice,” the official account of the Russian embassy in the US tweeted in response. “Users of Facebook & Instagram did not give the owners of these platforms the right to determine the criteria of truth and pit nations against each other.”

The following day, Meta’s President of Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, explained the company’s rationale in a statement, saying that “…our policies are focused on protecting people’s rights to speech as an expression of self-defense in reaction to a military invasion of their country.”

“The fact is, if we applied our standard content policies without any adjustments we would now be removing content from ordinary Ukrainians expressing their resistance and fury at the invading military forces, which would rightly be viewed as unacceptable.”

Clegg added that this is a “temporary decision” and a policy that will be applied only in Russia. “We have no quarrel with the Russian people… We will not tolerate Russophobia or any kind of discrimination harassment or violence towards Russians on our platform.”

But before that even happened, the Russian Prosecutor’s General Office has lodged a court motion for branding Meta Platforms an extremist organization, and announced it will fully ban its operation in the entire Russian Federation – this, according to an Interfax report from Friday.

Based on this, Instagram will also be blocked starting Monday. The Duma already shut down its accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, remaining active only on Telegram and on VK - a Russian social media account based in St. Petersburg.

The Russian Embassy in Washington’s pinned tweet also provides links to its official telegram channel and to its VK account.

Deputy Head of the State Duma Information Policy, Anton Gorelkin, said (on Telegram) that if Meta is recognized as an extremist organization, advertisers on its platforms might be prosecuted for financing extremism.

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