After almost a year of fighting Facebook to recognize her hometown of Effin, Ireland, 47-year-old Ann Marie Kennedy has finally succeeded. Last month, her online campaign hit a peak as her efforts to get the social networking giant to recognize the village made headlines all over the world. Facebook users are now able to set Effin as their Hometown on the social network.
"I have an iPhone and around New Year's Eve, I could see that a local girl had Effin down as her homeplace," Kennedy told Independent. "Then I saw that somebody else also had it online. We weren't told about it, but it seems that the change happened sometime over Christmas. It looks like everyone here in Ireland from Effin can register that as their homeplace. It is great, but we are not fully there yet. While anyone here in Ireland can put Effin in as their homeplace, some people abroad cannot -- so hopefully that will be overcome soon as there is a lot of Effin people abroad. God, I spent ages trying to put Effin, Co Limerick, in my Facebook page but there was no way would they let me -- until now."
Last year, Kennedy tried setting her hometown on her Facebook account to Effin, and found she could not do it. At first glance, it looked like the company had blacklisted the word for being obscene or offensive, and that's likely the part that made the news spread like wildfire once mainstream media picked it up, but a closer look found the social networking giant was simply not recognizing the place.
In English, the term 'effing' is often considered a contraction of the word "f**k". Kennedy believed this was why Facebook wasn't letting her post that she was from Effin. She set up a Facebook Page titled "Please get my hometown Effin recognized" with the following description:
I would like to be able to put Effin down on my own profile page and so would many other people around the world who proudly say that they are from Effin – but it wouldn't recognise that. It keeps coming up as Effingham, Illinois; Effingham, New Hampshire; and it gives suggestions of other places. It will recognise Limerick but I'm not from Limerick city, I'm from Effin. I'm a proud Effin woman. And I always will be an Effin woman.
Kennedy said she tried to voice her concern to Facebook, but couldn't get the company's attention. She even wrote to Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg:
It is named after a saint called Eimhin. The name Effin has been used for centuries long before it was used as a curse word. Surely with all your employees you can get this sorted out. I will be eternally grateful as will all the people from Effin all over the world.
When I contacted Facebook at the time, I was told the issue was an oversight in the company's mapping system and that it would soon be corrected so that Effin could be Liked on the social network. The spokesperson also told me Facebook had not banned people from talking about the village of Effin, Menlo Park doesn't think that Effin is offensive, and people are free to create Pages talking about Effin, contrary to reports saying otherwise.
I say that the battle has been won, but that the war is far from over, for two reasons. First of all, as Kennedy points out, not everyone can set their hometown to Effin. Since I'm not in Ireland, for example, I can't do so. This isn't fair; it's possible that I was born and/or raised in Effin even if I don't live in the area. In fact, I was born not too far from there, and I can set my city of birth correctly even though I'm not located anywhere near Europe. I have contacted Facebook to see when this will change.
Effin aside, I think there is a bigger problem here: it takes way too much effort for Facebook to pay attention to simple requests from its users. The company undoubtedly gets millions of inane appeals every day, but I don't see why adding a place to a map requires a year of campaigning and an extensive amount of unnecessary media coverage.
With Facebook's massive user base, especially one that is growing by millions every week, Menlo Park should be adding places before users complain. Users shouldn't have to tell Facebook their hometowns aren't listed; the service should add villages when people join the website, or even sooner then that.