Criminal Allegations Based on Nationality


MAY 21, 2024

2024-028-IG-MR, 2024-029-TH-MR, 2024-030-FB-MR

Today, May 21, 2024, the Oversight Board selected a case bundle referred by Meta regarding three pieces of text content posted across Threads, Facebook, and Instagram. These posts make criminal allegations against groups on the basis of nationality, which we consider to be a protected characteristic under our Hate Speech policy.

Meta referred the case bundle to the Oversight Board after the issue of how to treat criminal comparisons on the basis of nationality emerged as one of the most challenging questions during an ongoing policy development process.

The first piece of content is a Thread posted as a reply that states, “Genocide….. all Israelis are criminals.” The second piece of content is a Facebook post that says “Americans” and “Russians” are “criminals.” The third piece of content is a comment on an Instagram post that says, “All Indians are rapist[s].”

Meta determined that all three pieces of content violated our Hate Speech policy, as laid out in theInstagram Community Guidelines and Facebook Community Standards. We therefore removed all three pieces of content.

Under our Hate Speech policy, we remove content that targets people based on their protected characteristics or immigration status with Hate Speech attacks in the form of dehumanizing speech that compares them to criminals. National origin and ethnicity are both protected characteristic groups. Moreover, in these three pieces of content, Hate Speech attacks were made against people of a given nation, not toward that nation itself.

Meta referred this case to the board because we found it significant and difficult as it creates tension between our values of safety and voice.

While we believe the lines our policies articulate around unqualified behavioral statements in the context of hate speech attacks are in the right place to cover most circumstances, we also recognize that there are situations – particularly in times of crisis and conflict – where criminal allegations directed towards people of a given nationality may be interpreted as attacking a nation’s policies, its government, or its military rather than its people.

While the submission does not constitute a request for a formal Policy Advisory Opinion, as a part of the case Meta submitted to the board three possible options which we have outlined for them to consider, or any other options they determine may be appropriate:

  • Option 1 (context-focus): use the Crisis Policy Protocol to create a policy lever to adjust our policy in the context of a war or ongoing crisis, while maintaining the status quo policy outside of a crisis.

  • Option 2 (context-focus): create an escalation-only framework to differentiate between attacks based on national origin as opposed to attacks targeting a concept. This would allow attacks based on nationality when contextual factors indicate that the content is not solely attacking people but is in fact attacking a concept.

  • Option 3 (attack-focused): exempt nationality (or certain specific subsets, such as "soldier subsets”) from criminal comparison attacks (or a subset of attacks). This is actually a range of options which includes many ways of dealing with content such as: allowing all criminal comparisons on the basis of nationality; allowing all criminal comparisons to soldier subsets of nationalities; or distinguishing between different types of criminal allegations and allowing some but not others.

We also welcome the Oversight Board’s guidance on wider questions surrounding our policies and enforcement that the case bundle raises.

We will implement the board’s decision once it has finished deliberating, and we will update this post accordingly. Please see the board’s website for the decision when they issue it.