Several years ago, Facebook established its semi-independent Oversight Board to help it make decisions in sensitive content moderation cases. While many of these decisions don’t make the news, one case is likely to cause ripples this week. That’s because the Board ordered Facebook to restore a post from a Latvian user calling Russians “Nazis” for the country’s actions in Ukraine.
Facebook, which has already been banned in Russia following the country’s invasion of Ukraine in the spring, originally banned the post under its hate speech policies. However, the Oversight Board said that the post was making a historical comparison for the behavior of Russian soldiers at a certain point in time. In other words, it wasn’t accusing all Russians of being Nazis.
“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 Oversight Board wrote in its decision. “When violence is itself lawful under international law, speech urging such violence presents different considerations that must be examined separately.”
This is exactly the kind of tricky moderation scenario that Facebook envisioned when it created the Oversight Board in the first place. However, this decision is likely to further enflame the problems the company already has in Russia. As usual, even when it does the right thing, Facebook still can’t help but anger a large group of users.
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