Share article:
Share article:

Facebook and Instagram ban images of Zwarte Piet

Credit: Belga

Photos and videos of someone dressed up as the controversial figure of Zwarte Piet (which translates as Black Pete) are now forbidden on social media platforms Facebook and Instagram, the company reported on Tuesday.

After a nine-month process, Facebook is adapting its policy on discriminatory stereotypes worldwide, American company executives explained during a press briefing on Tuesday. The alternative for Zwarte Piet, ‘Roetpiet’ (Soot Pete, whose face is only streaked with soot), without the blackface features, is still allowed.

The Netherlands and Belgium have a long-standing tradition of celebrating the Winter holiday story of Sinterklaas, who is said to visit children’s homes to bring presents and treats on the evening of 5 (the Netherlands) or 6 (Belgium) December.

As the story goes, Sinterklaas has a helper – Zwarte Piet. Adults and children dress up as him, donning blackface and black curly wigs, painting large red lips, and often large golden earrings. The figure has been at the centre of a lot of controversies, with even American reality star Kim Kardashian commenting on it last year.

“We looked at different perspectives and spoke to more than 60 organisations and experts from around the world, including human rights specialists and activists,” they said. Belgian or Dutch ones, however, were not among them, reports De Morgen.

Users will be able to report the images and videos of Zwarte Piet. In case of faces that have clearly been painted black, combined with other stereotyping features such as a curly wig or large lips, Facebook employees will remove the image or video from the platform.

Related News:

 

An automatic pro-active detection programme using algorithms is not yet in place, and will therefore not be applied.

According to Facebook, blackface – and therefore also Zwarte Piet – falls under discriminating and hurtful stereotyping. “Worldwide, blackface is part of an ongoing history of dehumanisation and denied civil rights,” the company said.

Facebook is aware of the fact that, mainly in Belgium and the Netherlands, not everyone agrees on this approach of Zwarte Piet, but calls it “a principled approach.”

“And if people do not agree, they can say so,” the company said. Neutral news items about the debate can still be shared, even if they include a picture. Having the discussion, therefore, is still possible, emphasises the company.

Images of Zwarte Piet that have been shared in the past will be deleted if someone reports them, without further consequences. “However, if someone persistently shares content that violates our rules, further sanctions may follow and ultimately the deletion of an account.”

Besides images showing people in blackface, Facebook now also prohibits certain Jewish stereotypes, such as claims that Jews rule the world or serve in important institutions worldwide, as they are used to fuel anti-Semitism, according to the company.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

Latest news

Belgium main EU importer of kangaroo meat after cruel hunting
A recent Australian report discloses cruel hunting of kangaroo whose meat and skins are exported to among others EU member states. The report, ...
EU recognises UK Covid pass as ‘equivalent’ to EU Digital Covid Certificate
On Thursday, the European Commission adopted two new decisions certifying that the Covid-19 passes issued by the United Kingdom and Armenia are ...
Antwerp’s first garden street officially opens this weekend
Antwerp's very first "Garden Street" – which replaces tarmac roads with green spaces – will officially open this weekend. Situated on Lange ...
Belgium relaxes testing rules for UK travellers
At the Consultative Committee meeting on Tuesday, the Belgian authorities decided to relax the testing policy for travellers entering the country ...
Far-right MP calls for resistance against CST and face masks
Companies in Flanders should disobey the newly announced measures, according to Flemish group leader of the far-right Vlaams Belang party, Chris ...
How a clever cycling network brings bikers to Flanders
Belgium has always had a special relationship with cycling, but a clever Flemish system of route nodes makes it easier than ever. As Daniela De ...
Brexit fishing conflict escalates: France to adopt retaliatory measures
The conflict between France and the UK over fishing licences post-Brexit continues to escalate. France is set to adopt retaliatory measures ...
Mandatory from Monday: the new rules for Belgium’s Covid Safe Ticket
From Monday 1 November, presenting the Covid Safe Ticket (CST) will become mandatory in all hospitality businesses and fitness centres throughout ...
Car falls off opening bridge in Leuven, parents and child slightly injured
On Wednesday afternoon, a young family experienced the fright of their lives in Leuven when the bridge across the Vaartkom that they were driving on ...
Brussels and Wallonia once again dark red on European travel map
The Brussels-Capital Region and Wallonia have turned dark red in the latest update to the travel map by the European Centre for Disease Prevention ...
Belgium in Brief: What Now?
We've had the meeting, we know the results, and now the time has come to see what happens next. So I find myself wondering a simple question: ...
Floating solar farm to be built along Ostend coast next year
Dutch company Oceans of Energy has announced plans to construct a solar farm off the coast of Ostend next year that should eventually provide enough ...