New Haven, Facebook Spar Over City’s Page Name

What’s in a name? Plenty, if you’re following the debate between Facebook and the city of New Haven, Conn., over the latter’s page on the social network.

What’s in a name? Plenty, if you’re following the debate between Facebook and the city of New Haven, Conn., over the latter’s page on the social network.

The New Haven Register reported that Facebook contacted the city several weeks ago and asked it to change the page’s name, which was New Haven, CT, at the time. According to the social network:

Pages with generic location names like “New York,” “Ontario,” and “Switzerland” are not allowed to have administrators. We require pages to be managed by official representatives of the topic they’re about, and no one person can singly represent a geographic location.

The city’s solution, however, did not pass muster with Facebook, which contacted it earlier this week to notify it that the page’s new name, City of New Haven, ran afoul of its rules, as well, according to the Register.

As a temporary compromise, the page was renamed New Haven City Hall, but city spokeswoman Elizabeth Benton emailed Facebook asking it to reconsider the policy, the Register reported, with Benton telling the newspaper the city charter officially refers to its government as City of New Haven, and adding:

We didn’t want to switch the title to City Hall or the Mayor’s Office because that wasn’t what the page was about.

Benton wrote to Facebook Public Policy and Communications Manager Andrew Noyes, as reported by the Register:

The City of New Haven Facebook page represents more than just a single department or office within city government. That was an intentional decision on our part. While some departments and initiatives — such as the New Haven Free Public Library, the Office of Sustainability, or our Department of Parks, Recreation, and Trees — maintain active independent pages, the official City of New Haven page represents all departments and seeks to provide useful information to residents across the full spectrum of services and programs.

Unfortunately for the city, Benton then received an email notifying her that her temporary name change had become permanent.

Facebook told the newspaper it is working with organizations such as the National League of Cities to alert city governments with similarly named pages that the names must be changed or the pages will be shuttered, and that list currently includes City of New York, The City of Boston, and City of Chicago. And Noyes told the Register:

We want to make it easy for people to connect with different parts of their local city governments. Since there are many organizations that make up a city, we have asked page administrators to designate their specific department (e.g. travel/ tourism bureau, mayor’s office).

But that explanation did not satisfy Benton, who told the newspaper:

Just yesterday, with the help of Alderman Doug Hausladen, a good conversation had started about the merits of the new parking meters … It is important to employ as many methods as possible to allow residents to communicate with their government. By disabling the City of New Haven’s Facebook page, Facebook is doing the residents of New Haven a disservice.

Readers: Do you think Facebook is being too inflexible in this matter, or do you believe rules are rules, and the government of New Haven should follow them?