“Feedback-channel-ban” for German state’s Facebook fan page

Carsten Kociok

The German state of Rhineland-Palatinate (German: Rheinland-Pfalz) recently caused some amusement amongst the internet community.

Despite long resistance from the state’s Data Protection Commissioner Edgar Wagner, Rhineland-Palatinate finally went online with its own Facebook fan page in January – however, not without Mr Wagner imposing a “feedback-channel-ban” that requests all government agencies not to answer user questions on Facebook. Users who seek specific answers from the state government via its Facebook fan page are now referred to other ways of communication such as e-mail or the state’s official websites.

The motivation behind this is, of course, data protection. Mr Wagner wants to keep the state’s fan page clear of any user interaction in order to avoid user data being generated by Facebook.

According to Mr Wagner, Rhineland-Palatinate did not want to stay completely out of Facebook as the social network offered good opportunities to provide information to its citizens. The state’s presence on Facebook shall however only serve as a “bridge” for users to the state’s official website.

“Presence without communication”, “social network without dialogue”. The “feedback-channel-ban” has already caused some mockery on the internet and by third parties. Johannes Steiniger from the Young Christian Democrats, for example, called it a “real-life satire”. And Pia Schellhammer from the Green Party asked Facebook users to post their questions on her webpage. She would then try to obtain answers from the state government and publish these on her own Facebook website.

However, despite – or probably because of – its satirical character the case provides yet another illustrative example of the increasing resistance that Facebook is facing from data protection authorities in Germany.

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