Why are Facebook and Instagram promoting hatred?

Meta, the company that owns Facebook and Instagram, has decided to allow its users in some European countries to post calls for violence against Russians and Vladimir Putin.

You can read about it here:

Meta Platforms will allow Facebook and Instagram users in some countries to call for violence against Russians and Russian soldiers in the context of the Ukraine invasion, according to internal emails seen by Reuters on Thursday, in a temporary change to its hate speech policy.

The social media company is also temporarily allowing some posts that call for death to Russian President Vladimir Putin or Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in countries including Russia, Ukraine and Poland, according to internal emails to its content moderators.

“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.’ We still won’t allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians,” a Meta spokesperson said in a statement.

This report comes just two weeks after Facebook changed its policy regarding the promotion of a neo-Nazi group in Ukraine called the Azov Battalion. Here’s more on that story:

Facebook will temporarily allow its billions of users to praise the Azov Battalion, a Ukrainian neo-Nazi military unit previously banned from being freely discussed under the company’s Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy, The Intercept has learned.

The policy shift, made this week, is pegged to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine and preceding military escalations. 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 regiment is known for its hardcore right-wing ultranationalism and the neo-Nazi ideology pervasive among its members. Though it has in recent years downplayed its neo-Nazi sympathiesthe group’s affinities are not subtle: Azov soldiers march and train wearing uniforms bearing icons of the Third Reich; its leadership has reportedly courted American alt-right and neo-Nazi elements; and in 2010, the battalion’s first commander and a former Ukrainian parliamentarian, Andriy Biletsky, stated that Ukraine’s national purpose was to “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade … against Semite-led Untermenschen [subhumans].” With Russian forces reportedly moving rapidly against targets throughout Ukraine, Facebook’s blunt, list-based approach to moderation puts the company in a bind: What happens when a group you’ve deemed too dangerous to freely discuss is defending its country against a full-scale assault?

According to internal policy materials reviewed by The Intercept, Facebook will “allow praise of the Azov Battalion when explicitly and exclusively praising their role in defending Ukraine OR their role as part of the Ukraine’s National Guard.” Internally published examples of speech that Facebook now deems acceptable include “Azov movement volunteers are real heroes, they are a much needed support to our national guard”; “We are under attack. Azov has been courageously defending our town for the last 6 hours”; and “I think Azov is playing a patriotic role during this crisis.”

Wow, it sure is difficult to keep track of acceptable social media policies these days. When Trump was president, Facebook had no problem with users calling for his death, but of course no such hate speech is allowed regarding President Biden. And who would have ever thought Facebook would allow the promotion of actual neo-Nazis?

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I find this situation eerily familiar. The Book of Mormon, written for our time, warns us clearly that people throw out all morality during wartime.

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Jeff Lindsay’s excellent article in Meridian

I urge all readers to take time to peruse Jeff Lindsay’s excellent article in Meridian.

Lindsay’s point is that we as Latter-day Saints should be very hesitant to trust so many government authorities who are calling for American involvement in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, including calls for “no-fly zones” and other military exercises that would widen the war.

Lindsay’s essay is long, but here are the key paragraphs:

The specter of war these days, as in days of old, is linked to corruption and villainy of all kinds. War is now the ultimate playground for the greedy and power hungry. We must approach war with the caution and alertness that Eisenhower calls for. It’s not a time for trust and blind faith in humans who tend to be wicked and easily corrupted. We want America to be the good guy, the knight on a rainbow-colored horse that brings happiness to the masses of the world, but as the Book of Mormon sort of says, constant warfare never was happiness.

As we begin a new round of “rumors of war” and the “patriotic” stirring up of the masses to prepare us to engage in another major war far from our borders,  this might be a good time to ponder the red flags of war and of misguided trust before we blindly trust what we are told and asked to do. With the numerous and increasingly popular calls for the US and NATO to enforce a “no-fly zone” over Russia, we need to understand that such intrusion marks the beginning of a real war. Wars are often promoted as something simple — “we’ll just use a few airplanes and missiles, no boots on the ground” — but once engaged, things always get more complicated especially when we learn, sometimes year later, that the goal was not victory after all.

If the cause for war is just, we don’t need to rely on propaganda and censorship and must utterly shun deceit and lies. Let it be debated based on facts and let Congress declare it. But the cause for war is appropriate under the Constitution of this land, explain why it is necessary. There are bad guys causing war and invading countries all the time. Can we really be expected to join every battle? We seem to trust in bullets and bombs as the way to right every wrong, almost to the point of idolatry, as President Spencer W. Kimball once pointed out in one of the most neglected and most important messages from a modern prophet. In his June 1976 message in the Ensign, The False Gods We Worship,” President Kimball made some strong comments that challenged many in the Church:

In spite of our delight in defining ourselves as modern, and our tendency to think we possess a sophistication that no people in the past ever had—in spite of these things, we are, on the whole, an idolatrous people—a condition most repugnant to the Lord.

We are a warlike people, easily distracted from our assignment of preparing for the coming of the Lord. When enemies rise up, we commit vast resources to the fabrication of gods of stone and steel—ships, planes, missiles, fortifications—and depend on them for protection and deliverance. When threatened, we become antienemy instead of pro-kingdom of God; we train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot, thus, in the manner of Satan’s counterfeit of true patriotism, perverting the Savior’s teaching:

“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 

“That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:44–45.)…

What are we to fear when the Lord is with us? Can we not take the Lord at his word and exercise a particle of faith in him? Our assignment is affirmative: to forsake the things of the world as ends in themselves; to leave off idolatry and press forward in faith; to carry the gospel to our enemies, that they might no longer be our enemies.

We must leave off the worship of modern-day idols and a reliance on the “arm of flesh,” for the Lord has said to all the world in our day, “I will not spare any that remain in Babylon.” (D&C 64:24.) …

As we near the year 2,000, our message is the same as that which Peter gave. And further, that which the Lord himself gave “unto the ends of the earth, that all that will hear may hear:

“Prepare ye, prepare ye for that which is to come, for the Lord is nigh.” (D&C 1:11–12.)

False propaganda images from the Russian invasion of Ukraine

Something very strange is going on during the Russian invasion of Ukraine: there appear to be more fake images from the war than real war footage.

It may just be that this is the new reality of our social media-obsessed world. Or it may be something more sinister.

President Harold B. Lee warned us how to prepare during difficult times:

“… We should have our loins girt about with truth. What is truth? Truth, the Lord said, was knowledge of things as they are, things as they were and things as they are to come [D&C 93:24]. … ‘Our loins shall be girt about with truth,’ the prophet said.

“And the heart, what kind of a breastplate shall protect our conduct in life? We shall have over our hearts a breastplate of righteousness. Well, having learned truth we have a measure by which we can judge between right and wrong and so our conduct will always be gauged by that thing which we know to be true. Our breastplate to cover our conduct shall be the breastplate of righteousness.

“[By] what shall we protect our feet, or by what shall we gauge our objectives or our goals in life? … ‘Your feet should be shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.’ (Ephesians 6:15). …

“And then finally the helmet of salvation. … What is salvation? Salvation is to be saved. Saved from what? Saved from death and saved from sin. …

“Well, now the Apostle Paul … had his armoured man holding in his hand a shield and in his other hand a sword, which were the weapons of those days. That shield was the shield of faith and the sword was the sword of the spirit which is the Word of God. I can’t think of any more powerful weapons than faith and a knowledge of the scriptures in the which are contained the Word of God. One so armoured and one so prepared with those weapons is prepared to go out against the enemy” (Feet Shod with the Preparation of the Gospel of Peace, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [Nov. 9, 1954],

In contrast, our times seems filled with many more lies than with truth, and many of the lies are coming directly from government leaders and elected officials.

Check out this propaganda from warmonger Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger, who is pushing for U.S. planes to join the fight and shoot down Russian planes:

Kinzinger has been told several times that the image was from 2016, not 2022, but he put it on Twitter anyway in an attempt to gin up support for the Ukrainian army.

(To be clear, it is the Russian army that has invaded Ukraine, and I am in favor of independence for Ukraine and all other people who want independence. The point of this post is not to favor Russia or the invasion — the point is to avoid accepting the propaganda that is being spread far and wide. Christians should favor truth, not fake news).

There are unfortunately hundreds of other examples of propaganda being used during this conflict.

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Russian clerics call for an end to war with Ukraine

This story from the Vatican News is not getting that much coverage, so I thought I would bring it to readers’ attention:

A group of 233 priests and deacons of the Russian Orthodox Church has launched a strong appeal to all those who can bring an end to the war in Ukraine. They have described the situation as “fratricidal” and called for reconciliation and an immediate cease-fire. They write: “We mourn the ordeal to which our brothers and sisters in Ukraine were undeservedly subjected”. The appeal came following the Sunday of the Last Judgement and in the week before Forgiveness Sunday (the two Sundays preceding Great Lent in the Eastern calendar). 

Recalling that each person’s life is a unique and priceless gift from God, the priests and deacons stress that the Last Judgement awaits all. “No earthly authority, no doctor, no guard,” they read, “will protect us from this judgement. Concerned for the salvation of every person who considers himself a child of the Russian Orthodox Church, we do not want him to come to this judgement, carrying a heavy burden. Let us remember that the blood of Christ, shed by the Saviour for the life of the world, will be received in the sacrament of Communion by those who give murderous orders, not for life, but for eternal torment”.

In the appeal, the soldiers who are fighting the war are remembered and hopes are expressed “for all of them, both Russians and Ukrainians, to return unharmed to their homes and families. It saddens us to think of the gulf that our children and grandchildren in Russia and Ukraine will have to bridge in order to begin to be friends again, to respect and love each other”. The firm conviction is also expressed that the Ukrainian people must be free to make their own choices, “not under the crosshairs of machine guns, without pressure from the West or the East”.

Looking forward to Forgiveness Sunday, the 233 Russian Orthodox clerics recall that “the gates of heaven will be open to all, even to those who have sinned greatly, if they ask forgiveness of those whom they have despised, insulted, or killed at their hands or at their will”. They emphasise that there is no alternative to mutual reconciliation. With the wish to start Lent in a spirit of faith, hope and love, the message concludes by reiterating that “no non-violent appeal for peace and an end to war should be rejected by force and considered as a violation of the law, because this is the divine commandment: Blessed are the peacemakers”. The invitation to dialogue is underscored, because “only the ability to listen to the other can give hope of a way out of the abyss into which our countries have been thrown in so few days”. 

One of the reasons this is so significant is that the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church is linked very closely to the Russian government. Patriarch Kirill, the Orthodox Primate of Moscow and All Russians, gave a prayer Sunday that seemed to offer cover for the Russian government’s invasion of Ukraine. Patriarch Kirill has said that the Russian clerics opposing the war are part of a “schism” in the Russian Orthodox church.

There are three primary Christian churches in Ukraine, the Catholic church, the Russian Orthodox church and a separate Ukrainian Orthodox church, which was recognized in 2018 by the Russian Patriarch in Constantinople. The Church of Jesus Christ has more than 11,000 members in Ukraine and a temple in Kyiv. There is one stake in Ukraine with 48 congregations.

I applaud the call for peace from the Russian orthodox clerics. This should be the primary role of followers of the Prince of Peace, to continue to call for peace and the end of war, no matter the circumstances.

Church statement on armed conflict

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released this statement Friday:

The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has issued the following statement:

We are heartbroken and deeply concerned by the armed conflict now raging. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has members in each of the affected areas and throughout the world. Our minds and hearts have been turned toward them and all our brothers and sisters.

We continue to pray for peace. We know that enduring peace can be found through Jesus Christ. He can calm and comfort our souls even in the midst of terrible conflicts. He taught us to love God and our neighbors.

We pray that this armed conflict will end quickly, that the controversies will end peacefully and that peace will prevail among nations and within our own hearts. We plead with world leaders to seek for such resolutions and peace.

The First Presidency