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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Facebook apologises after it removes page for French town named ‘Bitche’

Bitche is a commune in the Moselle region in north-eastern France. The town's page was accidently removed owing to an algorithm issue.

By: Trends Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: April 15, 2021 10:46:15 am
ville de bitche, bitche facebook page removed, facebook deletes french town page, facebook apologise bitche town page, odd news, trending news, indian expressThe mayor said that it was understandable why the mistake occurred, he lamented that it took so long to get it restored. (Source: Ville de Bitche/ Facebook)

William Shakespeare famously said ‘What’s in a name?’, and while most might agree, for residents of a small French town it’s not quite so, especially after their official page was removed on Facebook. The tech giant recently took down the page for a town called Bitche, understandably over the confusing name, but residents were not impressed and the company received a load of flak for its move.

The social networking site’s algorithm confused the name of the town in Moselle, north-east France, with the English derogatory term. However, after it was brought to the attention of the company, nearly after a month being banned, the page was finally restored Tuesday. According to Facebook rules, page names must be accurate and cannot contain phrases that might “be abusive”.

According to BBC News, the Facebook page of the town with a population of about 5,000 was removed on March 19 for violating its rules. Facebook, however, recognised it was a mistake and restored it on April 13.

“On 19 March, Facebook informed us that our page, Ville de Bitche (City of Bitche), was no longer online, on the basis that it was ‘in violation of conditions applying to Facebook pages’. The name of our town seemed to suffer from a bad interpretation,” the town’s mayor Benoît Kieffer said in a statement in French.

“What happened to the city of Bitche demonstrates the insufficiency and the limits of moderation tools that only a human eye can appreciate, in particular as regards the verification of sources. The astonishing thing is that it lasted and that Facebook took so long to correct this incident,” the mayor continued.

In the statement, he also informed the public that president of French Facebook had contacted him on Tuesday to tell him the page had been reinstated and to extend his apology for the inconvenience.

The town’s page disappeared from Facebook on March 19 without any warning or apparent reason, The Guardian reported. After the page vanished, town hall staff created a new page calling it ‘Mairie 57230’, referring to the town’s postal code, to keep its residents up to date with local news and information, the report added.

Valérie Degouy, a spokesperson for Bitche, told the local radio station Radio Melodie that it isn’t the first time they had problems with the town’s Facebook page. “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 username was Ville de Bitche,” Degouy said.

In the statement, the mayor also referred to the town’s American connection. The 100th Infantry Division at Fort Jackson, South Carolina helped liberate Bitche from German occupation in March 1945, earning themselves the moniker “Sons of Bitche”. “Bitchois and bitchoises are proud to wear this name. The Americans already wore it proudly with a touch of humour of course,” Kieffer told CNN candidly. On its newly restored official page, the town also released a photo of the same.

After Facebook restored the town’s page, Kieffer said he would like to humbly invite Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and president general of Facebook France to their “lovely fortified town, which has distinguished itself in history several times”.

According to Euro News, other towns in the Moselle region, such as Rohrbach-lès-Bitche, have also renamed their social media pages to “Ville de Rohrbach” to avoid being removed.

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