LOL: Facebook mistakenly removes French town’s page

Bitche's Facebook page.
Bitche’s official page was removed for being ‘in violation of conditions’

Facebook has been criticized for temporarily removing the official page of the small French town of Bitche.

The social network’s algorithm confused the name of the town in Moselle, north-east France, with the English insult. Bitche’s mayor said the Facebook page of the town (population 5,000) was removed on 19 March for violating site rules. Facebook said it had reinstated the page on Tuesday after spotting the error.

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

Aerial view of Bitche
Bitche’s mayor invited Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg to visit “our pretty fortified town”

After the page was removed, the town hall had to create a new page, Mairie 57230, named in reference to the town’s postcode. Mr Kieffer criticised Facebook’s methods for monitoring content.

“What has happened to the town of Bitche demonstrates the insufficient and limited moderating tools that only the human gaze can appreciate,” he said.

The mayor said the president of French Facebook had contacted him on Tuesday to tell him the page had been reinstated and to apologise for the inconvenience.

Mr Kieffer invited him, as well as Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, to visit Bitche “to discover our pretty fortified town”.

A Facebook spokesperson said on Tuesday: “The page was removed in error and was swiftly restored this morning, when we became aware of the issue.” Another town in the region, Rohrbach-lès-Bitche, renamed its page “Ville de Rohrbach” on Monday.

“Facebook seems to be hunting a term associated with Rohrbach… we’ll let you imagine the reason,” the town said in a post explaining the move.

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