By Lora Scripps
About 1,800 followers of the “City of Athens, Alabama” Facebook page could have missed out on severe weather warnings Wednesday morning due to the site’s timeline no longer being available.
City of Athens Communications Specialist Holly Hollman said that the city has utilized Facebook since October 2011, as well as Twitter, Nixle and a city website in an effort for citizens to gather information on power outages, severe weather, road closures and other information. She was concerned that citizens might not be getting vital information.
On Tuesday, in a move that could be called bad timing, Facebook removed the city’s rights to administer the page. If a user tried to pull up the “City of Athens, Alabama” page, a timeline was no longer available — only a box with general information.
An email from Facebook informed Hollman there is a list of reasons why the page might have been deemed in violation of Facebook guidelines. The email stated that it could be attributed to someone hacking the Facebook page, the page’s administrators not being authorized representatives, the page infringing on intellectual property rights or the page name being too generic.
Hollman said she sent two appeals to Facebook regarding the issue.
“I sent an appeal to Facebook on Tuesday and again on Wednesday, but have yet to hear from Facebook what the issue with our page is,” Hollman said early Wednesday morning. “I have reviewed the list of reasons Facebook has for how we may have violated its guidelines. The only reason that could be an issue is if Facebook has deemed our page name, ‘City of Athens, Alabama’ as too generic.”
Andrew Noyes, manager of public policy communications at Facebook told The News Courier by email Wednesday, “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).”
By Wednesday afternoon, Hollman had heard from Facebook and was asked to rename the page because “no one person can represent a city, county, etc.” A Facebook representative told Hollman that due to a new policy, Facebook started reaching out to cities asking them to clarify their page name and apologized that an email asking administrators to change the name “didn’t make it through and the page was disabled.”
The representative told Hollman that Facebook would be happy to help restore service and answer any questions she might have.
Hollman said she sent the suggested name change “City of Athens, Alabama — (Public Relations).”
By late Wednesday afternoon, the name was approved and the site was up and running.