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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 3/18/22

Social media giants allow hate speech against Russia but silence Israel's critics

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Social Media: the big 5
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Silicon Valley has rammed through a series of changes over the past few days at dizzying speed, making explicit what should already have been obvious: Social media firms have rapidly become little more than propaganda arms of the United States and its allies.

That role has been increasingly difficult to conceal as western politicians and traditional media outlets have whipped up anti-Russia hysteria over the past three weeks following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The most blatant change was a sharp about-turn by Facebook in its policy on hate speech and incitement. Leaked emails to content moderators seen last week by Reuters indicated that Meta, the rebranded company behind Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, would allow threats of violence against Russians and death threats directed at Russian President Vladimir Putin on its platforms.

Such threats were, according to the guidance, permitted among users in much of eastern Europe and Russia. But whatever the official position, Meta's new policy is likely to have a wider impact given how widespread anti-Russia sentiment has become in the West.

In what was presented as a "clarification" this week, Meta's president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, a former UK party leader, said calls to assassinate Putin or "violence against Russians in general" would not be condoned. He appeared to narrow calls for violence more specifically to the Russian state and its conscript soldiers in Ukraine.

For years, social media firms have highlighted the importance of cracking down on hate speech and incitement. It was the justification for an unprecedented decision by tech giants to ban Donald Trump from their platforms in early 2021, even though he was a sitting US president.

Now the policy against hate speech and incitement is being watered down for one group only. An exemption for calls for violence towards Russians is likely to further fuel an already tangible Russo-phobic atmosphere, where even renowned, long-dead cultural icons such as Tchaikovsky, and Dostoyevsky, are being shunned.

In a related, equally stark policy change, Meta announced it would overturn an existing ban on praise for the Azov Battalion, the most prominent of several Ukrainian neo-Nazi paramilitary groups absorbed into the Ukrainian National Guard. Ultra-nationalists, the Azov fighters have been accused of directing violence at Ukraine's ethnic Russian community.

Double Standards

Silicon Valley's rank hypocrisy in allowing hate speech against Russia and Russians is particularly evident when compared with the special protections put in place by tech firms to block criticism of Israel and Israelis.

If Meta's new policy for Ukraine were to be applied impartially, would Palestinians then be allowed to promote violence against Israel and against Israeli soldiers that have been occupying and besieging them for decades?

Unlike Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which is three weeks old, Israel has been violently occupying and besieging Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, for more than half a century.

Israel has also been committing war crimes by transferring hundreds of thousands of its Jewish citizens into territory belonging to Palestinians, in an effort to colonise their land and ethnically cleanse them.

Israel's blockade of Gaza for the past 15 years has entailed putting its two million inhabitants on a "starvation diet", and repeatedly bombing the tiny enclave "back to the Stone Age", including attacks on schools and hospitals.

Palestinians and their supporters have every reason to condemn Israel and its leaders as passionately and vehemently as Ukrainians and their supporters are denouncing Putin and Russia for the current invasion. So why does one group have the right to incite violence and hatred while the other doesn't?

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Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the 2011 winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: (more...)

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