Princeton mayor frustrated by Facebook blocks on town content

Facebook blocks frustrating

Princeton Mayor Spencer Coyne is frustrated that the town is no longer able to post links from its website to social media, possibly as part of ongoing news-related changes at Facebook parent company Meta.

"Any link that goes back to our website has been flagged as a cyber security threat and they've removed them from any of the public Facebook groups," he added.

"We're looking at another way to get information out right now."

This means any links or information for council meetings, public hearings, bylaws, notices about water shut-offs, road closures, or evacuations can no longer be seen.

Meta blocked Canadian news on its social media sites in August in response to federal legislation — Bill C-18 — which requires some tech giants to pay for news content shared or repurposed on their platforms.

Meta is Facebook's parent company and formerly bore the same name as the social media platform.

Coyne said he's not sure whether the ban is the reason for the block since it's been flagged as a cybersecurity issue, not as a news ban.

With 13,700 people in the largest local Princeton Facebook group, he said the best way to get town information out with the media ban in place was to post municipal links and information in there themselves. The town's own page has a fraction of the following and engagement local sites do.

While posts on the town's own social media page aren't removed, Coyne said social posts shared on others dating back as far as four years are now gone.

"We're trying to figure out what's our next step. Do we throw all our eggs into the Voyent Alert basket? Or do we ramp up trying to get subscriptions onto our website?" he added, referring to a commonly-used app for sending emergency and other alerts to citizens.

Coyne said appeals to have the decisions overturned been denied so far.

"People are really going to have to look for their news, or their information if they want to get it because our mediums to be able to connect with people are narrowing down quite rapidly."

With increased traffic coming through town due to the Highway 97 closure near Summerland, Coyne said he is also frustrated to have that option of information sharing limited.

"There's a lot of things going on around us that we need to stay aware of, and without being able to keep those things in the forefront, they just get lost," he added.

"Even today, one of the administrators of another group contacted me just to let me know that more of our stuff was removed today. So it's still happening and we don't know where it's going to end."

The concern is the lack of shareable websites could have serious impacts in an emergency.

The hope is that Facebook will review the removal and take it down, but in the meantime, Coyne encourages residents to bookmark their local media website and bookmark the town's official website.

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