Facebook deletes (and then restores) the French town of Bitche’s page

Facebook deletes (and then restores) the French town of Bitche's page
Photo: Thimoty Keefe/Flickr
The north-eastern French town of Bitche had its official Facebook page removed without any explanation - although many have supposed the reason is its somewhat unfortunate name.

Local broadcaster Radio Mélodie reported that Facebook’s algorithm picked up Bitche as a crude insult rather than an actual town, automatically deleting the page on March 19th.

“We have signalled it, but for the moment the page remains invisible,” local authorities wrote in a new Facebook post, now under the name “Mairie 57230” – the town’s postcode. 

“The appeal procedure can last several months,” they said.

However after widespread media coverage, Facebook on Tuesday reinstated the town’s page.

Bitche – pronounced ‘Bitch’ – is situated in the north east of France, near the German border, in an area known as Pays de Bitche (Bitche Country), or Bitscherland in German.

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In French, the inhabitants of Bitche are referred to as bitchois.

To avoid risking seeing their own pages deleted, several towns in Pays de Bitche have reluctantly changed their own Facebook names.

“We wanted to explain to you the name change on our page,” the town of Rohrbach-lès-Bitche, now just Ville de Rohrbach, wrote on their official Facebook page.

“Far from denying the name of our beautiful village,” they wrote, “it is clear that Facebook seems to be hunting down the term associated with Rohrbach.

“We leave it up to you to imagine the reason.”

Bitche is a small town with some 5,000 inhabitants and a rich military history. It is most famous for the siege of Bitche during the Franco-Prussian war in the 1870s.

While it is far from the only French place with a name that has an unfortunate meaning to English-speakers, it is not the first time Bitche has been the source of controversy.

READ ALSO: The 12 worst places in France you could possibly live

Back in 1881, the United States ambassador took offence at the name of the square in Paris where the American embassy was seated: Place de Bitche, named to honour the town of Bitche’s wartime effort. The square was renamed Place des Etats-Unis.


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