Mayor of French town Bitche pleads with Facebook to reinstate local page after it is cancelled by algorithm

Barney Davis
·2-min read
<p>Photo of a ceremony celebrating the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Bitche</p> (Ville De Bitche)

Photo of a ceremony celebrating the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Bitche

(Ville De Bitche)

French town Bitche had its local Facebook page cancelled after being flagged by the social media giant’s algorithm as using offensive language.

Villagers were forced to replace their page to share local gossip and neighbourhood concerns after it was pulled by the network on March 19.

Facebook told the Guardian that the page, which serves 5,000 Bitchois, was unpublished because of an incorrect analysis by their systems and has now been restored.

In the meantime town hall staff were forced to created a new page “Mairie 57230”, the town’s postcode, to keep its residents up to date.

Mayor Benoît Kieffer said in a post: “The name of our town seems to suffer from a bad interpretation … the most astonishing thing is that Facebook took so long to correct this.

“The president/director general of Facebook France has just contacted me personally to tell me the Ville de Bitche page is published again and to apologise for the inconvenience caused.

“I humbly address it to Mr. Mark Zuckerburg and to Mr. General President of Facebook France, whom I would be pleased, along with my fellow citizens, to welcome at Bitche to make them discover our pretty fortified city which has been illustrated in history at several times, but also to honor, together, with them, the memory of compatriots and of our American friends who, under the banner of the 100th Infantry Division, came, from South Carolina, liberate our city.”

Before it was reinstated Valérie Degouy, a spokesperson for Bitche, told local radio station Radio Melodie: “I have tried every way to contact Facebook, through the different forms, but there is nothing more to do. I tried to send a private message on the Facebook France page, I left about 10 messages every day. I was finally contacted and told that they were not in charge, that if I appealed, I would have to wait for a response from Facebook.

“I already had problems when I created the town’s Facebook page. I could not enter the word Bitche, it was impossible. I had to create a page that I had called Ville fortifiée, and change it afterwards, in the description, to say that it was the official page of the town of Bitche and point out at the same time, the user name was Ville de Bitche. At that time in 2016, it was allowed.”

Bitche has been twinned with Lebach, Saarland, Germany since 1979.

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