A North Carolina artist who created a viral painting in 2009 of Santa Claus kneeling over the baby Jesus is claiming that for the second time in two years, the painting was temporarily censored by Facebook.
Gaye Frances Willard said of the latest alleged censorship of the painting that Facebook flagged it for “violent content.”
As we approach #Christmas, the #STEM Network would like to wish everyone a very Blessed Christmas. May you have the gift of #faith, the blessing of #hope & the #peace of His #love at Christmas and always. (Artist: Gaye Frances Willard) #catholiced #catholicschoolla #education pic.twitter.com/9jigrSJad6
— ADLA STEM Network Schools (@STEMschoolsLA) December 21, 2018
Willard told FOX8 earlier this month that she had always wanted to be an artist, recalling, “I was about 3 and my mother said I used to draw on the wall. I would draw one little line and a circle.” She focused primarily on portraits during her career, saying she centered on the subject’s eyes, adding, “I want it to have an emotional effect.”
She said of her 2009 painting, “When I did that one, I wasn’t really thinking about what anybody else would think because I did it for me. … I intended to paint a cross in this particular painting, but I did it in the shape of a star, because I think the cross and the message of the cross is central to the Christmas story. … When I walked back into the room, where it sat on the easel, I immediately saw another cross that I did not intend to be there, and it is perfectly positioned at the feet of Jesus.”
“Someone posted it, and you know how these things go, it just went viral and went everywhere,” she recalled. “This painting has been all over the world. I hear from people all over the world.”
But in 2018, Willard’s son emailed her that someone had noted that the painting was allegedly censored by Facebook. She said, “Right after I heard from him, I started hearing from other people who had shared it and said they weren’t able to share it, it’d been blocked.” She said that Facebook released the post the next day, prompting her to speculate that many people must have complained.
Snopes fact-checked the claim and confirmed that Facebook “briefly overlaid a religious image with a warning screen about ‘violent or graphic content,’” but noted that “the same image has been freely viewable on Facebook for years, it was not deleted or blocked such that users could no longer see it, and the warning screen was soon removed.”
Willard told FOX8 that someone had told her the painting was censored again recently for allegedly violent content. She said, “It happened again almost, well it was two years and one day, it happened again. And they blocked it for violent content. That’s what it said. … Either Santa Claus is violent, or baby Jesus is violent, or the two of them together.”
“Willard adds that she’s spoken to someone who was able to contact Facebook, where a representative told her the picture was blocked because of the social media company’s algorithms,” FOX8 reported.
It is unclear if the image was actually “blocked” or again overlaid with the “violent content” warning, as it reportedly had been in 2018.
Willard stated, “I don’t know how many peoples’ posts that it sees fit to block; it’s more than one because it’s a lot of people who say “I tried to share this and look what happened. … This painting has been all over the world … I hear from people all over the world.”
Asked “how much stuff” she had seen on Facebook that she would think would be classified as violent, Willard laughed, “Now that’s a loaded question right there.” Asked what one word she would use to categorize her painting rather than “violence,” Willard said simply, “I would categorize it as worship.”
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