New Haven faced off against Facebook this weekend when its page was banned from cyberspace.
On Wednesday night, New Haven officials received an email from Facebook threatening to permanently revoke the city’s rights to the “City of New Haven” page if they did not change the page’s name. Facebook’s objection to the city’s page was that, though it was intended to represent the municipal government of New Haven, the name “City of New Haven” did not sufficiently distinguish between the geographic area and the government, and Facebook policy prohibits any one entity from representing a geographic area. After Facebook disabled the page, City Hall spokeswoman Elizabeth Benton ’04 said she reluctantly submitted a request to name the page “New Haven City Hall.”
“The City of New Haven is the official name of the municipal government of New Haven … as defined in our charter,” Benton said. “No one else can stake a claim to that title, and it would be inappropriate for the City of New Haven to call itself by any other name.”
She added that changing the page’s name to “New Haven City Hall” is not an adequate solution because the city does more than run programs out of City Hall. The page — which includes pictures of events, publicizes meetings and shares information about programs such as New Haven Promise — has been used by libraries, parks, neighborhood groups and nonprofits to promote their events, she said, even though these entities are not located in City Hall.
But Facebook representatives said “New Haven City Hall” complies with their rules, which exist for the sake of clarity, as there may be more than one organization that claims to be the City of New Haven, such as the city’s tourism bureau.
“We want to make it easy for people to connect with different parts of their local city governments,” Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said. “Since there are many organizations that make up a city, we have asked page administrators to designate their specific department.”
Benton said creating Facebook pages for every department does not solve the problem, and is an inefficient way to disseminate information. The purpose of the official “City of New Haven” page was to represent all departments and provide information about all of the city’s services, she added.
“No one likes to be bounced from department to department being told that someone else is responsible for the service being requested,” she said.
City officials plan to continue to fight Facebook regarding this issue, and said that it is “absurd” that Facebook can decide not to recognize the rightful title of a municipal government.