Dutch online retail giant Bol.com is to ban all portrayals of Zwarte Piet which show a stereotyped caricature or people in full blackface make-up, the company confirmed on Wednesday.
Bol.com, part of the Ahold Delhaize group, said in addition, that the term Zwarte Piet in all texts is to be changed for Piet. The change is being made in both the Netherlands and Belgium because of new insights and current events, the company is quoted as saying by broadcaster NOS.
In reply to criticism on Twitter, the company was more forthright. ‘Zwarte Piet can be experienced as racist, so we are removing it from the shop. It is not that difficult,’ Bol.com said.
En weer een bedrijf om 🥳 https://t.co/qsa7bFRLmo
— Devika 🐙 (@devikagauri) August 19, 2020
Piet costumes will still be sold, but without black wigs and big gold earrings. Books about Zwarte Piet written from an educational or historical perspective will also still be allowed, but the content will be marked as controversial.
Retailers were told about the new policy in July, but it has only just become public. Retailers have until the beginning of September to comply.
Last week, Facebook and Instagram said they would remove content which shows ‘clear blackface makeup’ and ‘stereotypes about Jewish people controlling the world’ – if alerted to the photos by users.
In February, Bol.com came under fire for refusing to remove a Nazi children’s book from its virtual shelves, citing the need to uphold the principle of freedom of speech.
The book, Der Giftpilz (the poisonous mushroom), dates from 1938 and was written by Nazi stalwart Julius Streicher. It was used as evidence against him during the Neurenberg trials, at which he was sentenced to death for crimes against humanity.
The book did disappear from the website shortly afterwards, but Bol.com told the AD at the time it had been sold out. It is still unavailable.
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