News Release

Facebook Lifting Ban on Neo-Nazi Azov Battalion “Stunning”

LEV GOLINKIN, golinkin@gmail.com
Golinkin just wrote the piece “Meet the Head of Biden’s New ‘Disinformation Governing Board‘” for The Nation. He is the author of A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka. His writing on Russia and Ukraine has appeared in The New York TimesThe Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, CNN and other outlets.

Golinkin writes: “Late last month, the Joe Biden administration publicly confirmed that a ‘Disinformation Governing Board’ working group had been created within the Department of Homeland Security. The news prompted a flood of concern about the impact of such an Orwellian organ on America.

“But there’s no need to engage in hypotheticals to understand the dangers. One has to only consider the past of Nina Jankowicz, the head of the new disinformation board.

“Jankowicz’s experience as a disinformation warrior includes her work with StopFake, a U.S. government-funded ‘anti-disinformation’ organization founded in March 2014 and lauded as a model of how to combat Kremlin lies. Four years later, StopFake began aggressively whitewashing two Ukrainian neo-Nazi groups with a long track record of violence, including war crimes. …

“StopFake has also continued defending the Azov Battalion. Last month, StopFake tweeted that the unit — which was formed out of a neo-Nazi gang, uses two neo-Nazi symbols on its insignia, and has been documented as neo-Nazi by numerous Western outlets — ‘doesn’t profess #Nazi views as official ideology,’ labeling stories about Azov and neo-Nazism as fake news.

“This is particularly disturbing because in February, Facebook reversed its ban on praising Azov. Facebook had previously banned the Azov battalion’s account as well as posts celebrating the neo-Nazi organization. The reversal is stunning, given the platform’s professed commitment to combating far-right extremism.

“It’s unclear whether StopFake played a role in Facebook’s decision to lift its Azov ban, but considering StopFake is Facebook’s official fact-checking partner, it’s hard to believe the group’s track record of whitewashing Azov wasn’t a factor.

“The ‘grand wizards’ of battling fake news have even dabbled with Holocaust distortion, downplaying WWII-era paramilitaries who slaughtered Jews as mere ‘historic figures’ and Ukrainian nationalist leaders, while attacking members of the U.S. Congress who had denounced Ukraine’s glorification of Nazi collaborators.

“Astonishingly, when Jankowicz herself was quoted in a July 2020 New York Times story about StopFake’s going off the rails, the article failed to disclose the fact that the disinformation expert being quoted used to work with the group.

“Painting neo-Nazi paramilitaries with an extensive record of war crimes as patriots helping refugees, all while working with a ‘disinformation’ group that turned out to run interference for violent neo-Nazi formations — that’s the experience Biden’s new disinformation czar brings to the table.”