Google steps in to Zwarte Piet debate: blocks ads for ALL depictions (even Soot Piet!)

Google has made a swift but dramatic entry into the Zwarte Piet debate. The tech giant has announced that all websites and YouTube videos which glorify or praise Zwarte Piet will no longer be able to make money from video or website ads. 

The most surprising aspect of Google’s ban is that it extends across all forms of Zwarte Piet — even those introduced as Zwarte Piet “Lite”, such as Roetveegpiet (Soot Piet).

Soot Piet is supposed to have black streaks on his face from climbing up and down chimneys. However, this character will also be banned under Google’s new rules.

The company justifies this, saying that alternative forms of Zwarte Piet are “still based on racial stereotypes.” A spokesperson tells Nu.nl that Google took the extreme measure of banning all versions of the character “to keep the policy as consistent as possible.”

READ MORE | Is a watered-down Zwarte Piet enough? KOZP calls Grey Pete “embarrassing”

The decision takes the Zwarte Piet debate one step further than even opposition groups to Zwarte Piet do. The Kick Out Zwarte Piet action group accepts Soot Piet as a non-racist variant — but Google disagrees.

No advertising money

Google, who owns YouTube, will still allow Zwarte Piet videos on the video website. However, the videos will not be able to make money through Google’s advertising platforms. “We don’t want to get in the way of the debate about Zwarte Piet,” a Google spokesperson tells RTL Nieuws.

zwarte piet and soot piet
A traditional depiction of Zwarte Piet (left), and the newer Soot Piet (right). Image: Andre Engels/Wikimedia Commons/CC3.0 & Ziko van Dijk/Wikimedia Commons/CC4.0

An exception to the rule applies for videos or websites related to journalism or for the purpose of educaton. “A report by a news organization about a protagonist demonstration will show advertisements,” said the spokesperson. “That is not possible with a video in which someone very much promotes Zwarte Piet.”

The ongoing debate

The contentious Dutch childhood figure, Zwarte Piet, has been a heated debate subject in the Netherlands. The traditional portrayal of the character includes characteristics like blackface, an afro, gold hoop earrings, and wide red lips. However, defendants of Zwarte Piet argue that the character is not a racist caricature, but a “childhood tradition.”

The debate has made huge leaps in recent years, with more companies choosing to sidestep anything to do with Zwarte Piet. Popular Dutch web shop Bol.com recently removed anything related to Zwarte Piet from its offering. Meanwhile, social media giants Facebook and Instagram also banned racist depictions of the character on their platforms.

Do you think that Soot Pete is an acceptable alternative? And do you agree with Google’s decision overall? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

Feature Image: Gerard Stolk/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

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Samantha Dixon
Sam isn’t great at being Dutch. Originally hailing from Australia, she came to study in the Netherlands without knowing where the country was on a map. She once accidentally ordered the entire ice-cream menu at Smullers. She still can’t jump on the back of a moving bike. But, she remains fascinated by the tiny land of tall people.

1 COMMENT

  1. Yes, soot Pete is an acceptable alternative. The tradition must stay and Google shouldn’t be the deciding organism in this matter. It was never a racist thing either. For the black people doing the role of Zwarte Piet, it was a fun job and an opportunity to make children happy, that’s all. Normal adults will always do anything to make children happy, that’s what we all want… MAKE …..CHILDREN …..HAPPY!!!!

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