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Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Facebook censors French town for its name

By: V4 Agency

The French town bears no guilt for its name, which happens to be an English-language insult, but Facebook – having identified it as a sexual insult – has blocked the town’s account for weeks.

Bitche, a town in north-east France, has had its share of problems with tech giant Facebook. The town has set up an account to share important information with its residents, but the page was made unavailable for weeks due to censorship.

It turns out that the social network’s algorithm mistook the town’s name for an English-language insult.

“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 officials said. The word Bitche, however, has no equivalent in the English language, and the word “bitch” translates to French completely differently. The leaders of the town contacted Facebook’s French office through private messages and forms.

Valerie Degouy, a spokesperson for Bitche, told local radio: “I tried to send a private message on the Facebook France page, I left about 10 messages every day,” but to no avail. In the meantime, the town has set up an alternative page named after the area code of Bitche.

The problem eventually appaers to have reached the right people in the places and Bitche’s official website was made accessible again on Tuesday. The head of Facebook’s French division contacted the mayor in person to share the good news and to apologise for any inconvenience.

There are several other towns in France, whose names may be problematic in English, such as Condom and Anus, the New York Post has pointed out. Local officials can easily run into obstacles, should they want to create an official page for their towns on Facebook.

The small Austrian village of Fucking has also had a number of problems with its name. The town sign was frequently stolen and even a video was shot there, in mockery of the word. The residents eventually had enough and had the name of the town officially changed to Fugging earlier this year. Although locals knew what the name of the village meant in English, it carried a completely different meaning for them, the mayor said.

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