Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is seen testifying remotely during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in November 2020. File Photo by Hannah McKay/UPI | License Photo
March 11 (UPI) -- Russia's Investigative Committee announced Friday that it opened a criminal case against social media giant Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, over the company's hate speech policy.
The news came after Meta told moderators this week that it would allow Facebook and Instagram users to post violent messages about the Russian military amid the invasion of Ukraine.
The Russian agency said in a statement that the criminal case was opened "in connection with illegal calls for murder and violence" against Russian citizens by Meta employees.
"Andy Stone, the company's press secretary, announced on the social network that Meta had temporarily lifted the ban on calls for violence against the Russian military on its platforms. He called it a form of political expression," the Russian statement reads.
Russian officials accused Stone of violating the country's criminal code as a public call for extremist activities and assistance in terrorist activities.
"As part of the criminal case, the necessary investigative measures are being carried out to give a legal evaluation to actions of Andy Stone and other employees of the American corporation," the Russian statement reads.
Russia's investigation comes after Meta revealed it uncovered disinformation and hacking campaigns targeting Ukraine amid the invasion. Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin approved a law cracking down on independent media in the country and blocking access to Facebook.
Nick Clegg, Meta's president for global affairs, said in a statement that "the Russian government is considering designating Meta as an extremist organization for its policies in support of speech."
"There has been a lot of coverage and discussion of how we are applying our policies to speech in the context of Putin's invasion of Ukraine," Clegg said.
"I want to be crystal clear: our policies are focused on protecting people's rights to speech as an expression of self-defense in reaction to a military invasion of their country."
Clegg added that the temporary change in policies will be applied only to posts made inside Ukraine and that the company "will not tolerate Russophobia or any kind of discrimination, harassment or violence towards Russians on our platform."
"The fact is, if we applied our standard content policies without any adjustments, we would now be removing content from ordinary Ukrainians expressing their resistance and fury at the invading military forces, which would rightly be viewed as unacceptable," Clegg said.
"We have no quarrel with the Russian people. There is no change at all in our policies on hate speech as far as the Russian people are concerned."