Meta, Facebook’s parent company, has removed the Azov Regiment, a controversial unit of the Ukrainian National Guard with far-right political leanings, from its list of dangerous individuals and organizations. The change, first reported by Kyiv’s Independent, means that unit members can now create Facebook and Instagram accounts and post without Meta flagging and automatically removing their content. Additionally, unaffiliated users can praise the Azov Regiment as long as they adhere to the company’s Community Standards.
“The war in Ukraine has meant changing circumstances in many areas and it has become clear that the Azov Regiment does not meet our strict criteria for designation as a dangerous organization,” a company spokesman said. Kyiv’s Independent. Meta did not immediately respond to Engadget’s request for comment.
Sharing more information about the policy change, Meta said The Washington Post has recently begun to see the Azov Regiment as an entity separate from other groups associated with the far-right nationalist Azov Movement. Specifically, the company pointed to Ukraine’s National Corp political party and founder Andriy Biletsky, noting that they are still on its list of dangerous individuals and organizations. “Hate speech, hate symbols, calls for violence, and any other content that violates our Community Standards is still prohibited, and we will remove such content if we find it,” said Meta.
important news from @Goal — changes to platform policies. The Azov regiment no longer meets the designation of a dangerous organization. It means a lot to every Ukrainian. New approach comes into force gradually. great contribution @nickclegg and his team in sharing true content about the war.
— Mykhailo Fedorov (@FedorovMykhailo) January 19, 2023
The Azov Regiment was founded in 2014 by Biletsky after Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the start of the Donbass War that same year. Before the unit was integrated into the National Guard of Ukraine in November 2014, it was controversial for its adherence to neo-Nazi ideology. In 2015, a spokesman for the Azov Regiment said that 10 to 20 percent of the unit’s recruits were self-proclaimed Nazis. At the start of the 2022 conflict, Ukrainian officials said that the Azov Regiment still had some extremists among its ranks, but stated that the unit had become largely depoliticized. During the months-long siege of Mariupol, the Azov Regiment played a prominent role in the city’s defense. Russia captured many of the battalion’s fighters at the end of the battle.
The change underscores how much Meta’s content moderation policies have changed since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In the middle of last year, the company began temporarily allowing people in Ukraine and some other countries to call for violence against Russian soldiers. After the decision sparked controversy, Meta said it would turn to the Supervisory Board for policy guidance, a request the company later withdrew, citing “ongoing safety and security concerns” related to the war.
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