Sunday 6/20/21

Facebook bans controversial Santa Claus helper 'Black Pete'

The US company counts black make-up, thick lips and frizzy wigs among discriminatory stereotypes now prohibited.

FILED - 22 August 2018, Cologne: The logo of Facebook is pictured at the Gamescom video games fair. Facebook removed more than 7 million posts in the second quarter containing coronavirus misinformation that could potentially harm people's health, the social media giant said on Tuesday. Photo: Christophe Gateau/dpa
The logo of Facebook is pictured at the Gamescom video games fair, in Cologne. Photo: Christophe Gateau/dpa/File photo.

Images of the controversial tradition of blacking up to portray the Dutch and Belgian Christmas character Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete, may no longer be posted on Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook has presented new user rules for the social media platforms to combat racism and anti-Semitism. Discriminatory stereotypes such as Black Pete are now prohibited under these new rules in the Netherlands and Belgium, the company announced on Tuesday.

The US company counts black make-up, thick lips and frizzy wigs among the stereotypes.

Photos, drawings or videos of the stereotypical character will be removed from the platforms if they are reported.

"Facebook finds it unacceptable that people are made to feel discriminated against and unsafe by certain reports," the company said in a statement. "Sinterklaas is a festival for everyone."

Sinterklaas is the name of Santa Claus in the Netherlands and Belgium and he is traditionally accompanied by the cheerful blacked-up helper during his appearances around Christmas.

Santa-Claus-Black-Pete-by-PixabaySanta Claus (R) with Black Pete. Photo: Pixabay.

Strong reaction

There was a strong reaction to the ban on social networks. Supporters of the Black Pete tradition spoke of an "attack on freedom of expression," while anti-racism organizations praised the "positive and encouraging signal."

For years there has been a heated argument about Black Pete in the Netherlands.

For many people in the Low Countries, especially black people, the portrayal of Santa's blacked-up helper is racist. The Netherlands has also been heavily criticized internationally for the Christmas tradition.

Traditionally, the character appears at public parades in winter with black face make-up, an afro wig, thickly made-up lips and a colourful costume.

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