Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, will temporarily allow users in some countries to post hateful comments against Russian attackers in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, according to leaked emails first reported by Reuters on Thursday.
The tech giant will allow posts containing death threats against Putin and Lukashenko unless they reference other individuals or are deemed to be credible threats of actual violence with specifics like place and time. Lukashenko, a Putin ally, has allowed Russian troops to use Belarus to stage attacks on Ukraine.
“In light of the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, we made a temporary exception for those affected by war, to express sentiments toward invading armed forces such as ‘death to the Russian invaders,’” Meta spokesperson Drew Pusateri told HuffPost in an email Friday.
The declaration is a reversal of Meta’s standing hate speech rules, under which the company typically removes posts that encourage violence.
“These are temporary measures designed to preserve voice and expression for people who are facing invasion,” Pusateri said. “As always, we are prohibiting calls for violence against Russians outside of the narrow context of the current invasion.”
The policy change applies to users in 12 countries, including Ukraine, Russia, and Poland, according to an email seen by Reuters.
The Russian Embassy in the U.S. accused Meta of sowing division between countries.
“We demand that 🇺🇸 authorities stop the extremist activities of @Meta, take measures to bring the perpetrators to justice,” the embassy tweeted Thursday. “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.”
Facebook and Twitter removed posts by the Russian Embassy in the U.K. on Thursday that questioned reports of Russia’s attack on a maternity hospital in Mariupol that killed three people, according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin continues to crack down on news outlets and social media in Russia, shutting off Facebook and restricting access to Twitter and legitimate news websites like the BBC, according to The Financial Times.
The U.N. says more than 2.5 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion.