Ukraine’s controversial Azov Meta Regiment is removed from its list of dangerous organizations

Ukraine’s controversial Azov Meta Regiment is removed from its list of dangerous organizations

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 individuals and organizations. The move, first reported by The Independent Kyiv, means unit members can now create Facebook and Instagram accounts and post without Meta showing and automatically removing their content. In addition, non-affiliated users can recommend Azov Regiment, provided they adhere to the company’s Community Standards.

“The war in Ukraine has changed circumstances in many areas and it is clear that the Azov Regiment does not meet our strict criteria for designation as a dangerous organization,” a company spokesman said. The Independent Kyiv. Meta did not immediately respond to Engadget’s request for comment.

Sharing more information about the policy change, Meta said The Washington Post recently he began to see the Azov Regiment as a separate entity from other groups associated with the far-right nationalist Azov movement. Specifically, the company notified the political party of the National Corps of Ukraine and its founder Andriy Biletsky, noting that they are still on its list of dangerous individuals and organizations. “Hate speech, hate symbols, calls for violence and any other content that violates our Community Standards is still prohibited, and we will remove this content if we find it,” Meta said.

Biletsky founded the Azov Regiment in 2014 after Russia annexed Crimea and the Donbas War began 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 self-professed Nazis. At the start of the conflict in 2022, Ukrainian officials said the Azov Regiment still had some extremists among its ranks but claimed the unit had largely depoliticised. During the months-long siege of Mariupol, the Azov Regiment played a significant role in the defense of the city. Many of the battalion’s fighters were captured by Russia at the end of the battle.

The change highlights how much Meta’s content moderation policies have changed since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Halfway through 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 sparked controversy, Meta said it would turn to the Supervisory Board for policy guidance, a request the company later withdrew, citing “ongoing safety and security concerns” related to the war.

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