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By Hannah Van Dijcke

Earlier this month, Meta’s Oversight Board ordered the platform to restore a video uploaded by a citizen-run Cuban news platform on the one-year anniversary of the July 11 protests, during which thousands of dissenting Cubans were brutally repressed.

In the video, a woman could be seen urging other women to protest the regime using dehumanizing language, calling men “rats” and “mares” carrying human waste. Meta would be wise to follow the Board’s decision, as the video was a legitimate display of frustration whose free circulation is essential in authoritarian regimes like Cuba.

Months after it was uploaded, Meta removed the video, deeming it a violation of the platform’s hate speech policy. The Oversight Board — created to adjudicate difficult content decisions — overturned that decision earlier this month, reasoning that in closed civic spaces, “it is critical that social media protects the users’ voice” and that the video intended to express frustration rather than to demean.

Exercising free speech comes at an immense cost in Cuba, where any form of opposition to the regime is ruthlessly stifled. During the July 11 protests alone, the regime arbitrarily arrested over 1,400 people, indicted 790, and, by March 2022, had sentenced at least 128 to prison sentences of up to 30 years.

Hannah Van Dijcke is an International Legal Associate with the Human Rights Foundation.