Facebook apologizes for removing posts selling sealskin products — again

Yellowknife’s Gerri Sharpe tried to sell these sealskin mitts on Facebook. She says she never knows which posts will be rejected by Facebook. (Submitted by Gerri Sharpe)
Facebook users in the North say they’re frustrated the social media giant is removing posts selling sealskin products — again.

Gerri Sharpe said it first happened to her around Christmas 2017. The Yellowknife, Northwest Territories resident sells handmade sealskin mitts on the platform, but said she now hates the experience because she never knows when her posts will be removed.

“It’s always like a shot in the dark,” she said.

For some northerners, this may feel like déjà vu. A little over a year ago, Facebook users selling sealskin products had the same issue. Facebook removed posts with words like “skin” and “fur.” Some users got an error message saying the sale of animal products is against Facebook’s policy.

The company apologized in 2017, saying the posts were removed by mistake. They sent an almost identical apology to CBC News this time around.

Yellowknife’s Gerri Sharpe says ‘it’s always like a shot in the dark’ when she posts her sealskin mitts for sale on Facebook, as many posts get rejected. (Submitted by Gerri Sharpe)

“We recognize the deep importance of seal and other animal products to Northern Canadian communities and want to clarify that products like the one the seller posted are allowed for sale on our platform,” wrote Facebook spokesperson David Troya-Alvarez in an email.

Facebook says posts like Sharpe’s are being accidentally flagged by Facebook’s system and, as in 2017, were removed in error.

Facebook says it’s looking into how to fix the problem.

Impacts seller’s livelihoods

Sharpe believes it shouldn’t be an issue, either in 2017 or more recently.

“It’s the same thing as selling slippers. It’s the same thing as selling any type of fur,” she said.

“It should not be an issue anywhere in the world at all. Anybody that’s placing something on Facebook that is made from sealskin … it’s Inuk made.”

Not all sealskin sale ads have been rejected on Facebook. There are still advertisements selling sealskin products on many northern classified pages.

Jane Flaherty-Lambe received this message when she tried to sell a pair of sealskin mitts on Facebook. (Submitted by Jane Flaherty-Lambe)

Jane Flaherty-Lambe, who sells sealskin mitts on buy-and sell pages in Iqaluit, wants to know why some posts make it onto Facebook and some don’t.

“It’s frustrating, because that’s how I make my extra funds to support my family,” she explained.

“I’ve had several people messaging me saying don’t include the words ‘fur’, ‘pelt’, ‘sealskin,’ ‘leather’,” she said.

She’s tried using Inuktitut syllabics in the ad, but she said they still get rejected.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Exhibit in Arctic Canada to showcase evolution of parkas, CBC News

Finland: Sámi school preserves reindeer herders’ heritage with help of internet, Cryopolitics Blog

United States: Can traditional Alaska Native foods be sold? A clash of legal, cultural opinions, Alaska Dispatch News

Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi, CBC News

For more news from Canada visit CBC News.

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