Facebook Is Sorry for Messing With Bitche

The social media giant's profanity algorithm flagged a small French town's page
By Liz MacGahan,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 13, 2021 4:26 PM CDT
Facebook Is Sorry for Messing With Bitche
The Facebook logo appears on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite, in New York's Times Square in 2018.   (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

Facebook is sorry that its notorious algorithm hounded a small French town. Ville de Bitche's official page disappeared without warning on March 19. Facebook restored it Tuesday, with a personal apology from the head of Facebook France to Benoit Kieffer, mayor of the town of 5,000, per Newsweek. The town built an interim page to keep the Bitchois updated on local news, but had to name it after the region’s postcode to keep Facebook’s algorithm at bay. Bitche spokesperson Valérie Degouy told a local radio station that she has had trouble with Facebook from the get-go. "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," the Guardian reports. (To wit, the page's Facebook URL remains facebook.com/villefortifiee.)

The town's efforts to reach out to Facebook were to no avail for quite some time, with Degouy saying she left roughly 10 messages each day to Facebook France via its own page. After the issue was resolved, Kieffer publicly invited Mark Zuckerberg and the head of Facebook France to visit Bitche, which is pronounced more like "beach" than another English word it resembles. He noted the town has historically gotten more respect from Americans, "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,'" Kieffer said. But the BBC reports he also got in a dig at Facebook: "What has happened to the town of Bitche demonstrates the insufficient and limited moderating tools that only the human gaze can appreciate." (More Facebook stories.)

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