Meta says Ukrainians can't wish for Putin's death on Facebook anymore

The company narrowed its guidelines on violent speech over the weekend. Whatever could have made them do that?

KHARKIV, UKRAINE - MARCH 14: Responders are seen at the scene after a building destroyed by a Russia...
Anadolu Agency/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

It’s been totally kosher to express hope for the death of major public figures on Meta’s social media platforms for a while now. Hypothetically speaking, one could get away with posting to Facebook and Instagram, “Why does God allow a world in which we can’t have Betty White but Henry Kissinger still hasn’t keeled over yet?” or, “Donald Trump needs to hurry up and choke on a McDouble.” Over the weekend, however, it appears that the company is changing its morbid tune a bit thanks to the ongoing geopolitical and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.

According to Reuters’ review of internal company communications over the weekend, Meta is altering its policies in the region. "We are now narrowing the focus to make it explicitly clear in the guidance that it is never to be interpreted as condoning violence against Russians in general," Meta’s president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, wrote, adding that the company would not allow calls to assassinate heads of state, such as Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, or more generalized calls for their deaths. Both men seem to be hearing a lot of those sentiments these days, for some reason.


An about-face — Meta’s policy alterations come only a few days after Reuters revealed the company had decided to allow certain Ukrainian posts on Facebook and Instagram urging violence against Russian invaders, as well as Russian political and military figures. “"As a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine we have temporarily made allowances for forms of political expression that would normally violate our rules like violent speech such as 'death to the Russian invaders,’” a spokesperson said in a public statement, adding that the company “still [wouldn’t] allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians.”

Russia did not appear to enjoy this policy reprieve, seeing as how it almost immediately filed a criminal case against Meta following the report. Not only that, but the government moved to restrict Instagram for its over 80 million citizens over the weekend, which went into effect today.