Express & Star

Facebook apologises over Black Country faggots and peas censorship row

Facebook has apologised after a Black Country group's page was threatened with closure after members discussed the classic local delicacy faggots and peas.

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DUDLEY COPYRIGHT EXPRESS AND STAR STEVE LEATH 18/02/2021..Pic outside Brockmoor Community Centre, Brierley Hill, of Linda Beech (Brockmoor & Pensnett History Group), and Black Country Festivals Steve Edwards. They have got Facebook to apologise after mistaking there chats about Faggots and Peas for the slang offensive use of the word Faggots..

Members of the Pensnett, Brierley Hill and Black Country Now and Then (History Group) posted the word "faggots" with reference to the region's traditional meal.

However bots from Facebook said use of the "derogatory" word had violated its community standards – with the social media company later admitting it had made a mistake.

Marilyn McDonald, a member of the group, said: "We discuss local news, we discuss memories, pictures, and our food too – and local Black Country dishes.

"We came onto the subject of faggots and peas and Facebook have gone ballistic and have got rid of one of the admins of the group. They say faggots is a derogatory word but it's our dialect, for goodness sake.

"Something needs to be done because we don't use it in a derogatory way. I can't say how anybody could be offended by the word when referring to the dish. I just find it ridiculous.

"I find it disgusting that they can abuse our heritage like this."

Faggots – a traditional dish in the Black Country, traditionally made from pig's heart, liver and fatty belly meat or bacon minced together

A spokesman for Facebook said: "Our systems clearly made a mistake here and we apologise to users whose posts about this local delicacy were affected.

"We're looking into what happened and we are taking steps to rectify the error."

Steve Edwards, founder of the popular Black Country Festival, has written to Sir Nick Clegg – head of Facebook's global affairs and communications team – calling for them to investigate the issue.

He said in the letter: "In recent months I have personally received a warning from Facebook for using the word on my Black Country page and have also heard today that Facebook are threatening to shut down local history groups for using the word too.

"I completely understand the conflation with the derogatory and offensive term which is spelt the same but the two are not connected in anyway. There is no offence intended when we use the term ‘Faggot’ and the sentences always give context but only the word is examined by your team.

"People in the Black Country are proud of the heritage which comes along with eating ‘Faggots and Pays (peas)’ it is a working-class dish which is part of our identity.

"I was hoping that you could investigate this matter with urgency to ensure that Black Country history groups are not removed over a miss understanding and the people of the Black Country can continue to eat our regional dish with pride."

It comes three weeks after Facebook faced similar criticism for challenging people who mentioned coastal landmark Plymouth Hoe, mistakenly thinking they were using a misogynist term.

Dudley North MP Marco Longhi criticised what he called the "woke agenda".

The Conservative MP said: "This woke agenda has gone too far. First it was historic statues and now it’s our food. What will they target next? I’m very tempted to send Mr Zuckerberg some lovely homemade faggots and peas."

Meanwhile Dudley South MP Mike Wood called the ban on the word "ludicrous" and urged Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to change Facebook's filters.

Mr Wood said: "Sadly, the future of the group is at risk as they have been threatened with closure by Facebook bots for violating community standards.

"The supposed 'violations' appear to relate to a number of posts relating to the traditional Black Country delicacy of faggots and peas (or "faggits and paes" as they are sometimes known in these parts), large pork meatballs that have been eaten locally since at least the middle of the nineteenth century.

"One of the group’s admins has already been thrown out, and the group has been told that more admin violations may result in the group being disabled.

"It’s ludicrous that you’re banning a group celebrating a local recipe. What next? Censorship of spotted dick and a lifetime ban for Bake Off?

"There is nothing homophobic, discriminatory or hateful about faggots and peas.

"I know that this is not the first time that this has happened, and so it is time that Facebook updated its filters to respect and recognise the cultural significance of the Black Country faggot and apologises to this group for the unnecessary upset that this automated disciplinary process has caused. "

The MP said he was aware of the hurt that "inappropriate language" can cause, but added: "Perhaps I could suggest as a rough rule of thumb that hate speech rarely involves recipes for offal meatballs and peas.

"I trust that you will take action to remove the threat to this important group and its administrators, and look forward to welcoming you for a meal of faggots and peas next time you are in Brierley Hill."

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