Dilemmas Between Freedom of Speech and Hate Speech: Russophobia on Facebook and Instagram in the Spanish Media

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access | Ahead of Print | Last Modified: 25 January 2023

Dilemmas Between Freedom of Speech and Hate Speech: Russophobia on Facebook and Instagram in the Spanish Media


  • David Caldevilla-Domínguez Department of Communication Theories and Communication Analysis, Complutense University of Madrid, Spain
  • Almudena Barrientos-Báez Department of Communication Theories and Communication Analysis, Complutense University of Madrid, Spain
  • Graciela Padilla-Castillo Department of Journalism and New Media, Complutense University of Madrid, Spain


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Abstract:  On March 11, 2022, Russia opened a criminal case against Meta, the parent firm that owns Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. It alleged that Facebook had modified its community standards, broadening its concept of freedom of speech to allow alleged hate speech against Russian citizens, amid the conflict in Ukraine. Reuters (2022, para. 1) refers to a “temporary change in the company’s hate speech policy,” according to confidential Facebook documents. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights called the change “worrying” (“Rusia y Ucrania,” 2022, para. 11). In this context, this article addresses two objectives: (a) to explore and comment on the state of the art on freedom of expression in social networks and its deontological limitations to prevent hatred against nationalities (EU legislation, scientific research, Twitter, and Instagram deontological limitations); and (b) to study the emergence of possible cases of Russophobia, in a mediatized form, through the news of Spanish media and the comments they generated on their Facebook and Instagram sites. A triangular methodology is used: analytical and longitudinal commentary on EU definitions and standards on hate speech; quantitative analysis of news items in Spanish media on Russophobia, on Facebook and Instagram, published between January 1, 2022, and October 20, 2022; and mixed analysis of the engagement of these news items, thanks to the Fanpage Karma tool. The media coverage of Russophobia is scarce, with an average of one news item per media and, exceptionally, with two news items in very few cases. It is also striking that in such a long period, only six hashtags are used.

Keywords:  deontology; Facebook; freedom of speech; hate speech; Instagram; media; Meta; Russia; Russophobia; social media

Published:   Ahead of Print

Issue:   Hate Speech, Demonization, Polarization, and Political Social Responsibility (Forthcoming)

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/pag.v11i2.6330


© David Caldevilla-Domínguez, Almudena Barrientos-Báez, Graciela Padilla-Castillo. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.