Facebook mistakenly removed the page of the French town of Bitche

Facebook mistakenly removed the page of the French town of Bitche

Bitche, please: a moderation error caused the cancellation of the official page of the center on the Franco-German border. The name was too similar to a word that the platform algorithms do not like

Official Bitche page (image: Facebook) Facebook removed the official page of the French town of Bitche because, by mistake, the moderation system interpreted maliciously the name of the city, let's say, associating it with one of the most famous swear words in the English language, bitch.

On March 19 the page of the town of 5 thousand inhabitants on the Franco-German border was removed from the platform without it administrators were notified of the operation. “We received a message on Facebook and we noticed that the page was gone,” explained Benoît Kieffer, the mayor of Bitche. It was the report of a user that pointed out the disappearance.

Initially, the social media managers of the municipality thought of a technical problem but, continuing to investigate, they discovered that deleting the page was part of a program of moderation implemented by Facebook against the pages with insulting names. In fact, among its rules, Facebook clearly explains that the names of the pages cannot contain phrases or words that could "be offensive".

In the eyes of the moderation algorithm, the name of the French citizen seemed an insult and that was enough to start the cancellation process.

On Tuesday 13 April, after almost a month, Facebook restored the town's channel, apologizing and admitting the mistake. "We can be happy that social networks take responsibility, that they remove illegal and problematic content," Mayor Kieffer told CNN. The mayor then underlined how in his opinion, in these cases, the human side of the social network moderation department should have intervened first to correct the algorithm error.

The mayor then invited the Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in town to "discover our pretty fortified town that has stood out in history on several occasions", alluding to the 230-day strong resistance demonstrated by the town during a siege in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.

It remains in doubt whether the fate of the French town will also happen to the pages of some Italian towns and villages with creative and potentially offensive names: this is the case, for example, of Sex, in the province of Reggio Emilia

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