Social networking site Facebook has temporarily allowed its billions of users to freely discuss the Azov Battalion, a Ukrainian neo-Nazi military unit that was previously banned from the platform.
Emerging reports say that the latest policy shift made earlier this week is pegged to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine and preceding military escalations.
Praise for the group was banned in 2019 under Facebook’s “Individuals and Organizations policy” in which the group was classified in the same category as the Ku Klux Klan and Islamic State.
What is the Azov Battalion?
The Azov Battalion, which functions as an armed wing of the broader Ukrainian white nationalist Azov movement, began as a volunteer anti-Russia militia before formally joining the Ukrainian National Guard in 2014.
The group is known for its hardcore right-wing ultranationalism and the neo-Nazi ideology pervasive among its members.
A 2016 report by the OHCHR found that Azov soldiers had raped and tortured civilians during the 2014 Russian invasion of Ukraine.
But also worth noting is although users are allowed to discuss them, the battalion itself is still banned from using Facebook to publish posts or recruit members, while images of its uniform and banners will still be banned as hate symbols.
“For the time being, we are making a narrow exception for praise of the Azov Regiment strictly in the context of defending Ukraine, or in their role as part of the Ukraine National Guard.
But we are continuing to ban all hate speech, hate symbolism, praise of violence, generic praise, support, or representation of the Azov Regiment, and any other content that violates our community standards,” a spokesperson from Facebook’s parent company, Meta clarified in a statement.
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