Facebook parent company Meta has removed the Azov Regiment, a controversial unit within Ukraine’s National Guard with far-right political leanings, from its list of dangerous people and organizations. The move, first reported by The Kiev Independent, means unit members can now create and post to Facebook and Instagram accounts without Meta automatically tagging and removing their content. Additionally, unaffiliated users can praise the Azov regiment provided they abide by the company’s community standards.
“The war in Ukraine has changed circumstances in many areas, and it has become clear that the Azov regiment does not meet our strict criteria for being classified as a dangerous organization,” a company spokesman said The Kiev Independent. Meta did not immediately respond to Engadget’s request for comment.
Meta shared more information about the policy change The Washington Post Recently, they have come to regard the Azov regiment as separate from other groups associated with the far-right Azov nationalist movement. In particular, the company pointed to the National Corp political party and the founder of Ukraine, Andriy Biletsky, noting that they are still on its list of dangerous people and entities. “Hate speech, hate symbols, calls for violence, and any other content that violates our community standards remain prohibited, and we will remove this content if we find it,” Meta said.
Important news from @Meta — Changes in platform policies. The Azov regiment no longer meets the designation of a dangerous organization. Means a lot for every Ukrainian. New approach is gradually coming into force. Big contribution @nickclegg & his team sharing truthful content about the war.
— Mykhailo Fedorov (@FedorovMykhailo) January 19, 2023
The Azov Regiment was created by Biletsky in 2014 after Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the start of the Donbass War in the same year. Before the unit was integrated into the National Guard of Ukraine in November 2014, it was controversial for its adherence to neo-Nazi ideology. In 2015, a spokesman for the Azov regiment said that 10 to 20 percent of the unit’s recruits were professing Nazis. At the start of the conflict in 2022, Ukrainian officials said the Azov regiment still had some extremists in its ranks, but claimed the unit had been largely depoliticized. During the months-long siege of Mariupol, the Azov regiment played a prominent role in defending the city. Russia captured many of the battalion’s fighters at the end of the battle.
The change underscores how much Meta’s content moderation policy has changed since the beginning 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 incite violence against Russian soldiers. After the decision caused controversy, Meta said it would approach the Oversight Board for guidance, a request the company later withdrew, citing “ongoing security concerns” related to the war.