Facebook forces cities to rename their pages

I was alerted to a new Facebook practice to force cities to rename their Facebook pages. Apparently, generic city names are now violating the terms of use.

One account holder mentioned that they couldn’t post to their own city page anymore and had to inquire with Facebook. The account holder was locked out for a week and after lengthy back-and-forth finally understood the required change and had to agree to rename the page name. In other cases, Facebook reached out to the city and requested the name change directly. Apparently, a new practice that is not just a local U.S. issue, but was also reported to me from Europe.

It makes sense from the perspective of Facebook to reserve a city name as a geographic destination for users to check in via the places status update. It is however very disturbing to those government officials who were maintaining a page for a while, are then locked out of their own page without notice, and have to negotiate a new name with little or no explanation. This is bad business practice and does not help to increase acceptance among government officials – especially internationally and on the local government level, where public managers have very little leverage, support, or capacity to start a fight with Facebook.

Here are a few solutions that people shared with me:

1. Proactively suggest a new name, for example add “city government” or your state to the existing city name

2. Request to keep the existing URL, so that you don’t need to move the users to a new page

3. Or ask Facebook to transfer all the “likes”

4. Negotiate for more ad space, improved search placement, etc.

Updates from cities willing to share their experiences publicly (all via Twitter):

1. City of Prattville: https://twitter.com/TeresaMLee/status/208553713378406400

2. City of Nanaimo, Canada: https://twitter.com/jasonbirch/status/208633003684016129, Press release: Facebook site is down

3. City of Munich’s Facebook page disappeared including 400,000 fans: An article (written in German) by the news agency dapd reports that Munich’s city fan page disappeared earlier this year. The city government had to rebuild the page from scratch using the new name  “City Portal Munich” (Stadtportal München)

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About Ines Mergel

I am Full Professor of Public Administration at the Department of Politics and Public Administration at University of Konstanz, Germany. Previously, I served as Assistant and then Associate Professor (with tenure) at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, NY. In my research, I focus on informal social networks in the public sector and the adoption and diffusion of digital service innovations in government organizations. I teach classes on social media management, digital government, public management, and social network analysis.

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