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Russia aims to label Facebook ‘extremist organization’ for ‘terrorist’ activity

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and President Vladimir Putin (Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/Released)
March 11, 2022

The Prosecutor General’s Office of Russia has asked a court to designate Facebook’s parent company Meta as an “extremist organization” for “terrorist” activity after the social media giant announced it would allow calls for violence against Russian leaders.

“In accordance with the Federal Law ‘On Counteracting Extremist Activity’, the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation filed an application with the court to recognize Meta Platforms Inc. as an extremist organization and ban its activities on the territory of the Russian Federation,” the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation said on Friday, according to a Google translation of Interfax.

The Russian prosecutors argued that Meta is engaging in “propaganda of terrorism,” “incitement of hatred” and “threat of violence.”

The prosecutors said “in connection with the presence of signs of crimes provided for by Part 2 of Article 205.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (propaganda of terrorism) and paragraph ‘a’ of Part 2 of Article 282 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (incitement of hatred and enmity with the threat of violence).”

The request comes after Meta announced it will suspend Hate Speech policies when it comes to calls for violence “targeting Russian soldiers.”

“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.’ We still won’t allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians,” a Meta spokesperson said in a statement, according to Reuters.

Meta will allow calls for the death of Russian leaders unless they include two indicators of credibility, like a method or location, or if they have other targets.  

The Russian Embassy in the United States also condemned Meta’s “extremist activities.”  

“We demand that [American] authorities stop the extremist activities of @Meta, take measures to bring the perpetrators to justice,” the embassy tweeted. “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.”

Meta clarified the hate speech policy change in an email to moderators, and defended the move due to the “context” of the Russian invasion in Ukraine.

“We are issuing a spirit-of-the-policy allowance to allow T1 violent speech that would otherwise be removed under the Hate Speech policy when: (a) targeting Russian soldiers, EXCEPT prisoners of war, or (b) targeting Russians where it’s clear that the context is the Russian invasion of Ukraine (e.g., content mentions the invasion, self-defense, etc.),” Meta said in the email, according to Reuters.

“We are doing this because we have observed that in this specific context, ‘Russian soldiers’ is being used as a proxy for the Russian military. The Hate Speech policy continues to prohibit attacks on Russians,” the email added.