Washington - Facebook has temporarily eased its policy on violent speech after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, allowing statements like “death to Russian invaders” but not credible threats against civilians, the tech giant said Thursday.

Moscow’s internationally condemned attack on its neighbor has provoked unprecedented sanctions from Western governments and businesses, but also a surge of online anger and debates over social media’s role in the war. The policy decision from Facebook and Instagram’s parent Meta was met immediately with controversy, but the social media giant defended its change. “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,’” Meta said in a statement. “We still won’t allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians,” it added. Meta’s statement followed a Reuters report that said the policy applies to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia and Ukraine, citing the firm’s emails to its content moderators. The firm did not reply to a request seeking confirmation of the policy’s geographic boundaries.

Meta, which counts billions of users globally across its apps, has previously struggled with what it would allow people to post in moments of upheaval.

In July 2021, the firm temporarily allowed posts calling for “death to Khamenei”, referring to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, during protests that rocked the country.