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The Holbein hand that hacked off Facebook

1 September 2016

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

There’s been a riot over in cyberspace. The trouble began when Stephen Ellcock posted a picture of Hans Holbein the Younger’s drawing of the Renaissance humanist Desiderius Erasmus’s hand. Apparently, Facebook told Ellcock that the image breached ‘community standards’ and that his account was being suspended for 30 days. Cue Ellcock’s online followers lending him a hand, or several, by posting other artistic representations of harmless (and indeed armless) appendages by way of complaint.

Unless Facebook thought Erasmus was giving it the finger, the long-dead theologian’s hands can hardly be described as ‘rude’. The problem, it seems, is more likely to have been caused by ‘human error’ at Facebook. The site has since apologised to Ellcock, but according to The Times, he believes that there are ‘dark forces at work’.

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