Prominent North Pole resident Santa Claus says Facebook temporarily locked him out of his account Christmas Day.
On his Facebook page, Claus — also a monk in Anam Cara, a Celtic Anglican order, since the early 2000s — routinely posts a mix of Alaska photography and inspirational quotes to his nearly 300,000 followers.
That routine was interrupted Sunday morning, however, when Claus couldn't log in.
"They initially sent me messages via Facebook saying it looked like someone had gotten into my account via phishing — which I don't believe at all," Claus said. "I have extraordinarily strong passwords on my account and email."
Claus legally changed his name in 2005 before moving to North Pole. In 2013, he served as the North Pole Chamber of Commerce's president; last year, he was elected to a seat on the Fairbanks-area town's city council.
Eventually, Facebook staff sent Claus secure email links through which to submit proof of his identity. He sent them documents from a list of ID forms Facebook claims to accept, including his Alaska driver's license and U.S. passport, as well as proof of his standing in North Pole, but nothing apparently sufficed.
"I was sort of at a loss as to what to do," Claus said. "I asked the person who contacted me what they really wanted and they never got back to me."
In the meantime, Fairbanks TV station KTVF and the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner both reported on Claus' social media standstill. He regained access to his page Wednesday, posting that he was grateful to both the media and the community for their support.
"My Facebook page is a labor of love, and I would never intentionally abandon you," Claus wrote.
No one at Facebook discussed blocking of the account with Claus or let him know access had been restored, he said Friday. He wasn't told the exact reason the page was shut down, although he said that people have tried "every so often" to interfere with his account during his eight years on Facebook.
"I'm well aware that it's a free platform, but one would think that if they're interested in promoting social media, they would be sensitive to people like me," Claus said.
Nearly a week after the incident, Claus was philosophical about it but suspected that Facebook wouldn't have acted without the public outcry.
"We're supposed to be forgiving and loving, so that's what I've been being," Claus said. "You have to get either the news behind you or thousands of people behind you, like I did in my case — otherwise, nothing would have happened."
To avoid future run-ins with Facebook's naughty list, Claus hopes the company will add a blue check mark to his page, indicating both that it's a verified account — typically associated with well-known celebrities — and that he is who he claims to be.
"It's very frustrating since I put a lot of time and a lot of love into my posts," Claus said. "I've probably put a thousand hours into it over the years, and it's very upsetting — and now to be let back in without even an apology, I'd like to see them take that next step and verify the page finally."
Facebook didn't answer an Alaska Dispatch News request for comment Friday. In a statement to the News-Miner, the company said that Claus' account had been blocked in error and that staff were "very sorry about this mistake."