Oversight Board Selects Case on Depiction of Zwarte Piet

Note: For future Facebook updates about Oversight Board cases, please visit the Transparency Center

Update on June 24, 2021 at 1:00PM PT:

Following up on one of the Oversight Board’s non-binding recommendations in this case, today we are adding the following language to our Community Standards Hate Speech Policy Rationale:

“We define hate speech as a direct attack against people — rather than concepts or institutions — on the basis of what we call protected characteristics: race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, religious affiliation, caste, sexual orientation, sex, gender identity and serious disease. We define attacks as violent or dehumanizing speech, statements of inferiority, expressions of contempt, disgust or dismissal, cursing, and calls for exclusion or segregation. We also prohibit the use of harmful stereotypes, which we define as dehumanizing comparisons that have historically been used to attack, intimidate, or exclude specific groups, and that are often linked with offline violence.”

Blackface was popular in the United States at the end of the Civil War and the beginning of the 1900s. Its purpose was to dehumanize Black people. Specifically, this included non-Black people darkening their skin and exaggerating facial features while demeaning Black people as “lazy, ignorant, superstitious, hypersexual, prone to thievery and cowardice.” 

Unfortunately, this tactic has persisted throughout history and continues today, not just in America but in other parts of the world as well. This can lead to exclusionary practices in our societies and can also lead to offline harm such as hate crimes and excessive force. Facebook works to ensure that hateful and demeaning words and imagery are not on its platform and to educate people when they attempt to put it there.

Update on May 13, 2021 at 11:00AM PT:

The board issued their binding decision for this case last month upholding our initial decision in this case. At that time the board also issued two non-binding recommendations, which we are responding to in the table below. 

Response to Oversight Board Recommendations

Update on April 13, 2021 at 6:00AM PT:

We welcome the Oversight Board’s decision today on this case. The board decided to uphold Facebook’s decision so we have taken no further action related to this case or the content.

After conducting a review of the recommendations provided by the board in addition to their decision, we will update this post.

Originally published on January 29, 2021 at 7:00AM PT:

Today, the Oversight Board selected a case appealed by a Facebook user regarding a video of a child interacting with three adults — one of whom is dressed to portray Sinterklaas and two of whom are dressed to portray Zwarte Piet. The child shakes hands and a hat is placed on his head by one of the adults portraying Zwarte Piet. Festive music is playing and accompanying text in the post, written in Dutch, states the child is happy.

Facebook has taken down this content for violating our policy on hate speech, as laid out in our Community Standards. We do not allow hate speech on Facebook that makes “designated dehumanizing comparisons, generalizations, or behavioral statements (in written or visual form) that includes… caricatures of Black people in the form of blackface.”

We will implement the board’s decision once it has finished deliberating, and we will update this post accordingly. Please see the board’s website for the decision when they issue it.

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