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Facebook Mistakenly Deletes Page for the Town of Bitche, France

Sunday April 25, 2021. 06:34 PM , from Slashdot
'Ville de Bitche is a town situated in northwestern France with a rich military history, pastoral landscape, and an unfortunate sounding name,' reports Slate. (Adding that the 'e' is silent....)

'Recently tiny Bitche made international headlines after Facebook mistook the city's name for a swear word and deleted the town's Facebook page.'

The city's communication manager, Valêrie Degouy, contacted Facebook on March 19 to explain the situation and ask the company to reverse its decision — for the second time. (The page was previously deleted in 2016.) As she awaited Facebook's response — which apologized and reinstated the page Tuesday — Degouy set up a new page for her town, under the name of Marie 57230, her city's postal code. Although Facebook's mistake seems innocuous enough, for the towns located around Bitche, local Facebook pages serve as the main form of communication. Shutting the page down effectively creates a local news blackout. When Rohrbach-les Bitche — a nearby town in the region — heard about the deletion, it quickly rid 'ls-Bitche' from its Facebook page name to avoid a similar fate...

The residents of Bitche are far from alone in their reliance on Facebook for local news. In the United States alone, more than 2,000 local newspapers have closed over the past two decades, according to an estimate from Joshua Scacco, associate professor of political communication at the University of South Florida. In these news deserts, Facebook has risen as an alternative information source, allowing anyone with an account to share updates and post events...

But Facebook is not only filling the local news void — it is tied to local papers' disappearance. 'Social and digital media are a contributing factor in thinking about the declines of the presence of local newsrooms, as well as what that coverage looks like for the local newsrooms that remain,' Scacco says. Facebook is moving advertising dollars away from local newspapers, and even driving the content local newspapers create. Local news coverage often panders to Facebook's algorithms when creating content and headlines, notes Ashley Muddiman, a communications professor at the University of Kansas.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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