Senator Sullivan Writes Facebook, Encourages Clarification of Policies Negatively Impacting Alaska Native Artisans
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) today wrote the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, to clarify Facebook Marketplace’s policies regarding the sale of products or artwork made with any “part, pelt or skin from an animal, including fur.”
Late last week, Senator Sullivan was made aware of the policy issue by the Sealaska Heritage Institute – which informed the Senator that Sitka skin sewer Robert Miller posted a sea otter hat for sale on Facebook and received a message saying it was not approved because it didn’t meet Facebook’s commerce policies. Facebook has since indicated the removal of these ads was a mistake. However, Senator Sullivan is requesting greater clarity on the scope of prohibited items for Alaska Native craftsmen and their customers around the world.
“The Alaska Native community has for thousands of years used animal products for survival, subsistence, and as a key means of cultural expression,” Senator Sullivan wrote. “Inhibiting the sale of these items not only limits the cultural exchange Facebook has empowered the Alaska Native community to share, but also threatens one of the key economic opportunities in remote Alaska villages.
“Going forward, I hope we can work together to positively use the power of Facebook to the benefit of Alaska Native people and their communities. An important part of my work in the Senate is to try to correct the problems caused when public officials and entities like online vendors do not fully understand the unique circumstances of my constituents.”
Senator Sullivan’s full letter to Mark Zuckerberg can be found here.
In February 2018, Senator Sullivan worked with Alaska Native artists to resolve an issue with Etsy – an online marketplace of crafts and handmade items – that initially refused to sell Alaska Native artists selling products or artwork with sealskin, sea otter and ivory.
In October 2016, Senator Sullivan convened a Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee field hearing at the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention to discuss a series of reported problems and confusion surrounding state laws across the country that prohibit ivory sales and harm Alaska Native artisans.
Following the hearing – working with Alaska Native leaders and those negatively impacted by these bans – Senator Sullivan introduced S. 1965, the Allowing Alaska IVORY Act. This legislation, cosponsored by Senator Lisa Murkowski, would have preempted states from banning walrus ivory or whale bone products that have been legally carved by Alaska Natives under the Marine Mammal Protection Act; in addition to preempting states from issuing bans on mammoth ivory products.
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