In a turn of events that has left local government officials frustrated and alarmed, numerous municipal links across several community Facebook groups have mysteriously disappeared. These deletions occurred this past weekend, and the cause has been identified as a violation of Facebook’s “Community Standards on cybersecurity.”
Notably, the vanished links include a compendium of valuable and practical information directly sourced from various municipal websites. Among these lost links were posts related to local administrative activities, notices, and alerts—all chronicling nearly four years’ worth of shared events and data. Spencer Coyne, the mayor of Princeton, was among those voicing their disapproval.
“Posting updates about meetings, public hearings, bylaws, notices about water shut offs or road closures—just about anything we would post linking back to our main website—it’s all been removed,” Coyne stated.
Coyne emphasized the significant impact this sudden and unexplained removal of posts is having on the social media landscape. He hone in on the ongoing fire season and the ongoing challenges faced in informing the public about fast-evolving evacuation orders and alerts. Coyne asked, “How do you post critical information like a PDF map or evacuation alerts, when those pieces of information keep disappearing from the social media channels we frequently use?”
Notably, several other communities also experienced the same abrupt and inexplicable deletion of official government posts. Among these locations was Columbia Shuswap, which likewise had its content removed due to supposedly infringing the same cybersecurity community standards.
Maria Otting, an admin of a local Facebook municipal group, voiced her concerns about this removal. She questioned the sustainability of the current operations and the potential limitations being imposed on the sharing of essential information.
Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has acknowledged these developments. However, they reassured that the deletion of these posts is not connected to the recently enacted Online News Act or the banning of Canadian news content from its platforms. The month of August had seen Meta blocking news access for Canadian users, a reaction to Ottawa’s passing of Bill C-18 mandating tech companies to negotiate content deals with media outlets.
Coyne, echoing the sentiments of his colleagues, bemoaned the increasing difficulties faced in dispersing information to the public. He stated, “This is really, really frustrating, especially with the present news ban. How do we get our information out to the public?”
In contrast, Otting focused on the paramountcy of finding a solution. “We have been relying on Facebook groups for years. Being cut off from conveying critical updates could potentially turn catastrophic to our people,” she said.
Coyne has formally challenged Facebook’s decision, calling for the reinstatement of the deleted posts. Despite this, four reinstatement requests have so far been declined by Facebook, indicated by a gavel icon accompanied by the phrase “we’re keeping it down.”