Meta's Global Affairs chief Nick Clegg again clarified the company's hate speech policy for Facebook and Instagram posts in an internal memo Friday, saying that users cannot call for the assassination of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He had already clarified the policy earlier in the day in a public statement, saying that the company did not allow calls for violence against Russian civilians. Meta had begun allowing calls for violence against the Russian military in the context of the Ukrainian invasion Thursday, leading Russia to ban Instagram. The ban took effect today.
“We are now narrowing the focus to make it explicitly clear in the guidance that it is never to be interpreted as condoning violence against Russians in general,” Clegg said in the internal post, which was obtained by Bloomberg. “We also do not permit calls to assassinate a head of state.”
In some ways, Meta is finally getting a grip on misinformation and the promotion of violence on its platforms. The company has move more quickly to remove misinformation throughout Russia's invasion of Ukraine than they have in past conflicts in Myanmar or Ethiopia, for example. By changing its policy on violent speech, the company has also drawn the ire of the Russian government more than other social media platforms, like Twitter and TikTok, both of which have only been restricted in the country — not explicitly banned.
But the company has spent the last week refining and clarifying its stance on hate speech in the context of Russia's invasion, indicating that the policy is ever-changing. The company initially said that it would allow certain calls for violence against “Russian invaders," and several news platforms suggested threats against Putin specifically would be allowed. Critics became increasingly concerned about discrimination against Russian people abroad.
The fact that Clegg had to issue an internal statement suggests there was some level of confusion amongst employees. And despite Meta's efforts to limit the spread of misinformation, certain Russian-backed conspiracy theories, like one about American-funded biolabs in Ukraine, have found their way into American political discourse.