Problems with Facebook moderation are well known to all Ukrainian users who are periodically banned even for neutral posts about the Russian invasion. Finally, the Oversight Board of the Meta company drew attention to the problem. This semi-independent commission decided to reinstate a deleted post by a user who compared the Russian military to fascists In addition, the Oversight Board urges Meta to be more careful with moderation during “illegal military intervention”.
The commission’s decision concerns a post by a Latvian user who, in April of this year, published an image of a person killed in Bucha and added a text saying that the Russian army “has become fascist.” The image itself does not show violent wounds and thus does not violate Facebook’s graphic content policy. The post ends with the lines of the Soviet poet Konstantin Simonov: “Kill the fascist… Kill him! Kill him! Kill!”.
Another Facebook user complained about the post and Meta removed it for violating the Community Standards on hate speech. After the Board reviewed the matter, Meta concluded that the post had been removed in error and reinstated it.
“In this context, neither Meta’s human rights responsibilities nor its Hate Speech Community Standard protect soldiers from claims of egregious wrongdoing or prevent provocative comparisons between their actions and past events,” the commission concluded.
The Oversight Board also noted that there are additional difficulties in assessing aggressive statements regarding international conflicts, when international law allows them to be addressed at the expense of participants in hostilities.
“The Russian invasion of Ukraine is recognized as illegal throughout the world. The Board calls on Meta to revise its policies to take into account the circumstances of unlawful military intervention,” the Oversight Board writes.
In the findings, the commission asks Meta to change its policy on wartime conflicts and create clearer rules for public posts that contain potentially violent images or language. The company must allow “neutral reference to the potential outcome”, even if it involves violence. In addition, adult users can make their own decisions about whether to view graphic content and whether to install a warning screen on it, so Meta can give them that choice.
Let’s hope that the conclusions of the Oversight Board of Meta will improve the situation with the blocking and removal of posts by Ukrainian users.