“What the Zuck?” is a valid question asked in the title of the Breitbart article below, “What the Zuck: Facebook Welcomes Ukraine’s Neo-Nazi Azov Regiment Back on Platform.”
In 2021, before the Azov battalion became accepted as a key element of Ukraine’s defense against Russia, Time magazine did an exposé on the group. Some key points that are relevant to the US and other Western countries about the Azov movement, which has denied its neo-Nazi activities for years: Time points out that in October 2019:
40 members of Congress signed a letter calling—unsuccessfully—for the U.S. State Department to designate Azov a foreign terrorist organization. “Azov has been recruiting, radicalizing, and training American citizens for years,” the letter said.
Time conducted its own investigations:
TIME, in more than a dozen interviews with Azov’s leaders and recruits, found that the key to its international growth has been its pervasive use of social media, especially Facebook, which has struggled to keep the group off its platform. “Facebook is the main channel.”
The Azov Regiment doesn’t aim to only protect Ukraine, but to spread its National Socialist ideology. There could even be violence in America itself:
In their letter to the State Department in 2019, U.S. lawmakers noted that “the link between Azov and acts of terror in America is clear.”
Azov’s main recruitment center in Kyiv disseminates Nazi propaganda. “On the ground floor is a shop called Militant Zone, which sells clothes and key chains with stylized swastikas and other neo-Nazi merchandise.”
Haaretz has previously reported:
The Azov movement insists it is not neo-Nazi, yet its members have been captured giving Hitler salutes and being virulently anti-Semitic….
Members even muse that some Jews would not be allowed to stay in Ukraine if they ever seized power.
At a time when antisemitism is on the rise, why is the Azov Regiment being welcomed back on Facebook? Mark Zuckerberg has weaponized the Facebook platform as a political tool, employing bold and unapologetic censorship tactics to target users with views that oppose those of the establishment Left. Meanwhile, Hamas and Islamic Jihad were allowed on Facebook, and now the Azov Regiment. Facebook, of course, banned Donald Trump. The reasoning that governs Facebook (Meta) concerning the Azov battalion is that as the group is “under the command and control of the Ukrainian government,” it is benign and has shed its Nazi elements.
But that line of reasoning is irrational. The neo-Nazi Azov Regiment was formally incorporated into the Ukraine National Guard since November 11, 2014. Its character hasn’t changed just because Ukraine has now been invaded. The change from “Battalion” to “Regiment” was cosmetic — an attempt to rebrand in the face of the war with Russia. As that war goes on, the Doomsday Clock has now moved closer to midnight.
The decision to provide a forum for neo-Nazis will likely backfire on “Zuck.”
by Lucas Nolan, Breitbart, January 21, 2023:
Facebook (now known as Meta) has removed Ukraine’s Azov Regiment — members of which regularly display Nazi symbols and signs on their uniforms — from its list of dangerous individuals and organizations. With this change, Mark Zuckerberg is welcoming members of the Azov Regiment who were once blacklisted to utilize his massive platform.
The Washington Post reports that as the conflict between Russia and Ukraine continues, Facebook has modified its approach to content moderation. The neo-Nazi Ukrainian military group Azov Regiment was recently removed from the social media behemoth’s list of potentially harmful people and groups. With this modification, members of the Azov Regiment will be able to sign up for Facebook and Instagram accounts and post content without worrying about it being taken down unless it violates the platforms’ content policies. Other users will be able to openly laud and support the group’s work due to the change.
This policy change comes after months of criticism of how the social media juggernaut is handling the conflict, with many questioning where it draws the line between promoting free speech about the conflict and containing rhetoric that could have violent or dangerous offline repercussions. The company has been criticized by its Oversight Board, an independent group of primarily leftist activists, academics, and experts who oversee Facebook’s content moderation decisions, for going too far in removing content that challenges authoritarian governments or leaders.
Historically, there has been controversy surrounding the Azov Regiment. It is one of Ukraine’s most skilled military units and has engaged in combat with Russian forces in strategic locations like the besieged city of Mariupol and close to Kiev. However, there were worries that the group was drawing extremists because of its ties to its neo-Nazi ideology. The Azov forces were partially referred to when Russian President Vladimir Putin described his invasion of Ukraine as an effort to “de-Nazify” the nation.
According to Facebook, the neo-Nazi Azov Movement and the Azov Regiment are no longer affiliated. It mentions that the unit is formally under the command and control of the Ukrainian government. According to Facebook, there are still “elements of the Azov Movement, including the National Corp., and its founder Andriy Biletsky” on its list of potentially harmful people and groups. “Hate speech, hate symbols, calls for violence, and any other content which violates our Community Standards are still banned, and we will remove this content if we find it,” the company said.
Ukraine’s minister for digital transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, praised Facebook’s choice and singled out former British deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, Fakebook’s president for international affairs. “Means a lot for every Ukrainian. New approach enters the force gradually,” Fedorov tweeted. “Big contribution @nickclegg & his team in sharing truthful content about war.”…..
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