Life’s a Bitche for one historic town in north-east France that has received an apology from Facebook after its page was shut down for apparently using offensive language.
Bitche in the Moselle, population 5,000 and home to the Bitchois, fell foul of the social network’s algorithm, which deemed it insulting and removed it without explanation last month.
On Tuesday, after reports of the Facebook suspension spread, the social network restored the Ville de Bitche page.
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.”
Facebook told the Guardian that the page was unpublished because of an incorrect analysis by their systems and has now been restored.
The town’s page disappeared from Facebook on 19 March without any warning or apparent reason. In the interim, town hall staff created a new page “Mairie 57230”, the town’s postcode, to keep its residents up to date with local news and information.
Before the page was reinstated, Valérie Degouy, a spokesperson for Bitche, told local radio station Radio Melodie: “I appealed on 19 March but [the page] hasn’t reappeared again. 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.”
She added: “I created a new page and called it Mairie 57230. I would have liked to call it Mairie de Bitche but the word doesn’t work. There is a logo of the city of Bitche which clearly shows that it is Bitche. The cover photo is the town hall.”
After Facebook restored his town’s page, saying it had been taken down by mistake, Mayor Kieffer added: “I and my fellow citizens would like to humbly invite Monsieur Mark Zuckerberg and Monsieur the President General of Facebook France to our lovely fortified town, which has distinguished itself in history several times.
“Together, we can honour together the memory of compatriots and our American friends who under the flag of the 100 Infantry Division came from South Carolina to liberate our town: liberators who called themselves, with pride, the ‘Sons of Bitche’.”