Facebook in support of Ukraine: Impressive but prejudiced against other world conflicts?
Ukraine–Social media is undeniably a powerful tool that has potential to deviate any global conflict towards any course. This has been evident in past few years when social media platforms came to the forefront at disposal of populations around the world. This was also a major debate issue as it was called out to be instrumental in creating some havoc, for instance US Capitol Hill riots on January 6, 2021. This called for change in laws and regulations of the platforms from operational level.
Meta, parent company of Facebook and Instagram and largest social media company, last week announced of temporarily changing its regulations. The company would now allow ‘certain’ posts calling for violence on its platforms. Users of Instagram and Facebook who are living in countries near Ukraine can now post calling for violence against Russian soldiers fighting in war against Ukraine, as well as calls for death of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his close ally Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
The company added that this would, however, be allowed without ‘specific location or method’. In a statement released by Meta, it said, “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.”
No matter how brazen this announcement is, it is a welcomed one. But this is not because of the use of violence part, but because for a starter Facebook’s parent company Meta is taking a firm stance, and in a correct direction. The International Law states that use of violence as part of armed resistance is recognized against an aggressive occupation. At the same time the tweaked regulations by Meta suggests how its policies haven’t been applied evenly and in an unbiased manner when it comes to other world conflicts.
This double standard has been well experienced by Palestinians. Last year in May, Israeli government was forcibly uprooting Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah, triggering protests on Jerusalem streets and viewed in horror by world on their screens. Facebook removed non-violent posts and speeches from its platform by Palestinians, clearly showing whose side it was on.
“Facebook has suppressed content posted by Palestinians and their supporters speaking out about human rights issues in Israel and Palestine,” Human Rights Watch wrote in a fierce report issued in October 2021. “In one instance,” the report says, “Instagram removed a screenshot of headlines and photos from three New York Times opinion articles for which the Instagram user added commentary that urged Palestinians to ‘never concede’ their rights. The post did not transform the material in any way that could reasonably be construed as incitement to violence or hatred.”
It was reported that in total, social media platforms had removed more than 700 cases of content, hashtags were hidden, accounts were abruptly closed, archived content was deleted, and much more. 85 per cent of these restrictions were found to be by Facebook and Instagram, the report by Human Rights Watch noted.
The latest change in stance by Meta showcases that social media can play a vital role in global politics. By standing against a powerful military, Meta is showing its commitment towards international law and transparency of events, a hopeful progression. Now it comes upon the social media giant to adapt similar stance against countless other conflicts, large scale and even smaller gamut ones, and become the voice of those suppressed. Become the vector of justice, freedom and rights for all oppressed people across the world.