Facebook’s parent company Meta has removed the Azov Regiment, a controversial unit within the Ukrainian National Guard with far-right political leanings, from its list of dangerous people and organizations. The measure, first reported by The Kyiv Independent, means unit members can now create Facebook and Instagram accounts and post without Meta flagging and automatically removing their content. Additionally, non-affiliated users can praise the Azov Regiment, as long as they adhere to the company’s Community Standards.
“The war in Ukraine has meant a change of 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. The Kyiv Independent. Meta did not immediately respond to Engadget’s request for comment.
Sharing more information about the policy change, Meta said the washington post recently began to view the Azov Regiment as a separate entity from other groups associated with the far-right nationalist Azov Movement. Specifically, the company singled out political party and Ukraine National Corp founder Andriy Biletsky, noting that they are still on its list of dangerous people and organizations. “Hate speech, hate symbols, calls for violence, and any other content that violates our Community Standards are still prohibited, and we will remove this content if we find it,” Meta said.
important news from @Goal — Changes in platform policies. The Azov regiment no longer meets the designation as a dangerous organization. It means a lot to every Ukrainian. New focus comes into force gradually. great contribution @nickclegg and his team in sharing truthful content about the war.
— Mykhailo Fedorov (@FedorovMykhailo) January 19, 2023
The Azov Regiment was founded in 2014 by Biletsky following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the start of the Donbas War that same year. Before the unit was integrated into the Ukrainian National Guard in November 2014, it was controversial for its adherence to neo-Nazi ideology. In 2015, a spokesperson 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 claimed that the unit had become largely depoliticized. During the months of siege of Mariupol, the Azov Regiment played a leading role in the defense of the city. Russia captured many of the battalion’s fighters late in the battle.
The change underscores how much Meta’s content moderation policies have changed since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In the middle of last year, the company began temporarily allowing people in Ukraine and a handful of other countries to call for violence against Russian soldiers. After the decision created controversy, Meta said it would turn to the Oversight Board for policy guidance, a request the company later withdrew, citing “ongoing security concerns” related to the war.
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