Oversight Board Upholds Meta’s Decisions in Greek 2023 Elections Campaign Cases

In reviewing two cases about Facebook content posted around the time of the June 2023 General Election in Greece, the Board upheld Meta’s removal of both posts. Both were removed for violating the company’s Dangerous Organizations and Individuals policy. The first case involved an electoral leaflet that included a statement in which a lawful candidate aligned himself with a designated hate figure, while in the second case an image of a designated hate entity’s logo was shared. The majority of the Board find these removals to be consistent with Meta’s human rights responsibilities. However, the Board recommends that Meta clarify the policy’s exception allowing content to be shared in the context of “social and political discourse” during elections.

About the Cases

These two cases involve content posted on Facebook by different users around the time of the June 2023 General Election in Greece.

In the first case, a candidate for the Spartans party in Greece posted an image of their electoral leaflet. On it, there is a statement that Mr. Ilias Kasidiaris – a Greek politician sentenced to 13 years in prison for directing the criminal activities and hate crimes of Golden Dawn – supports the Spartans.

Mr. Kasidiaris and other members of the far-right Golden Dawn party had been persecuting migrants, refugees and other minority groups in Greece before the party was declared a criminal organization in 2020. Ahead of his sentencing in 2020, Mr. Kasidiaris founded a new political party called National Party – Greeks. Later, in May 2023, the Greek Supreme Court disqualified National Party – Greeks from running in the 2023 elections since, under Greek law, parties with convicted leaders are banned from participating. Although Mr. Kasidiaris has been banned from Facebook since 2013 for hate speech, he uses other social media platforms in prison. This is how he declared his support for the Spartans about a couple of weeks before the June election. The Spartans, which won 12 seats, acknowledged the part that Mr. Kasidiaris played in driving its party’s success.

In the second case, another Facebook user posted an image of the logo of National Party – Greeks, which also includes the Greek word for “Spartans.”

Golden Dawn, National Party – Greeks and Mr. Kasidiaris are designated as Tier 1 hate organizations and a Tier 1 hate figure respectively, under Meta’s Dangerous Organizations and Individuals policy.

Both posts were reported to Meta. The company determined separately that both posts violated its Dangerous Organizations and Individuals Community Standard, removed the content and applied a severe strike and 30-day restriction to both accounts. The two different Facebook users who posted the content appealed to Meta, but the company again found it to be violating. Both users then appealed separately to the Board.

Key Findings

First Case

The majority of the Board find the post violated the Dangerous Organizations and Individuals policy (as written in June 2023) because the user broke the rule that prohibits “praise” of a designated entity. He did this by “ideologically aligning” himself with Mr. Kasidiaris, who is designated by Meta as a hate figure. As this rule included an explicit example of ideological alignment, this would have been sufficiently clear to users and content moderators. Even after the latest policy update, this post would still fall under the prohibition on “positive references” to Mr. Kasidiaris.

Furthermore, the majority of Board Members note that removing this post did not infringe on the public’s right to know about this endorsement. The public had plentiful other opportunities, including in local and regional media, to learn about this expression of support by Mr. Kasidiaris for the Spartans party.

A minority, however, find that violation of the rule on ideological alignment was not directly obvious because Mr. Kasidiaris was endorsing the lawful candidate, not vice versa. These Board Members also believe the exception for “newsworthiness” should have been applied to keep this content on Facebook so that voters could have access to the fullest possible information on which to make their decisions.

Second Case

The majority of the Board find the image violated the Dangerous Organizations and Individuals policy because it shared a symbol of National Party – Greeks, a designated organization, and should have been removed. No context was provided by the user to allow for the exceptions on “reporting on, neutrally discussing or condemning” to be applied.

However, there are also Board Members in the minority who believe simply sharing logos associated with a designated entity, when there are no other violations or context of harmful content, should be allowed.

Overall Concerns

In the Board’s view, the policy exception for “social and political discourse” about designated entities during elections needs to be made clearer publicly. The Board also remains concerned about the lack of transparency around Meta’s designation of hate entities, which makes it challenging for users to understand which organizations or individuals they are allowed to align with ideologically or whose symbols they can share.

The Oversight Board’s Decision

The Oversight Board has upheld Meta’s decisions to remove both posts.

The Board recommends that Meta:

  • Clarify the scope of the Dangerous Organizations and Individuals Community Standard exception that allows for content “reporting on, neutrally discussing or condemning dangerous organizations and individuals or their activities” to be shared in the context of “social and political discourse.” Specifically, Meta should clarify how this exception applies to election-related content.

For Further Information

To read the full decision, click here.

To read a synopsis of public comments for this case, click here.

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