Facebook continues to ban posts by an Alaska Native artist trying to sell fur products made from sea otter, despite the company’s apology and statement that it had fixed the problem, a spokesperson with an Alaska Native cultural group said Wednesday.
“It’s still not fixed,” said Lee Kadinger, chief operating officer at Sealaska Heritage Institute. “I’ve been pinging the site every three hours to check."
In a public statement last week, the group and U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, urged the social media giant to restore the posts from Tlingit artist Robert Miller. Facebook had removed his posts as he attempted to sell a hat made from sea otter fur, saying it was not allowed on their site.
Sealaska Heritage said the sea otter was legally harvested from the region and that sales of such products should be allowed. Not doing so would hurt Alaska Native artists with limited job opportunities in remote villages, the group said.
A spokeswoman with Facebook on Saturday responded to the criticism with an apology sent by email to the Anchorage Daily News. It said the posts were mistakenly removed from the site and that it had restored the posts.
The company allows sales of processed fur and leather, the statement said. But it prohibits the sale of raw or unprocessed fur or pelts.
However, the policy as spelled out in the company’s Facebook pages says that sales of “any part, pelt or skin from an animal, including fur” are prohibited. It does not distinguish between processed or unprocessed parts.
Miller’s products are made with processed animal parts, Kadinger said. But as of Wednesday, Facebook was still rejecting Miller’s posts, telling him they don’t meet the company’s policies, Kadinger said.
Kadinger said Sealaska has been working with Miller, filling out forms from Facebook trying to explain why the posts are not a violation of the company’s policies.
It’s possible the company is reviewing the forms and will soon fix the problem, Kadinger said.
Sullivan’s office announced Monday that the senator had sent a letter to chief executive Mark Zuckerberg urging Facebook to clarify its policies and take steps to benefit Alaska Native artists.
Sullivan’s staff has been in touch with Facebook officials, who have said they’re working to fix the problem, said Mike Anderson, a spokesman for Sullivan, late Wednesday.
“We’re hopeful this gets resolved by Facebook as soon as possible,” Anderson said.
A Facebook spokesperson said Thursday by email that the company understands "Alaska Natives have unique needs that aren’t always captured in a one size fits all approach."
"While our policies do not make exceptions for Alaska Natives, we are actively engaging our partners in this space -- including Senator Sullivan and his staff -- and regularly look to take cultural considerations into view in crafting policies that impact a global community. We are sorry for any confusion we caused this seller,” the statement said.