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In Asia, more users signing on to Facebook

Asians are flocking to Facebook, driving the social networking site's latest growth.

Still, Facebook watchers have noted China’s influence on founder Mark Zuckerberg. The 26-year-old is studying Chinese, according to a cover story in Time Magazine, and recently visited Beijing with his Chinese-American girlfriend of seven years.

His empire has already proven willing to take on another communist, Facebook-banning nation: Vietnam. Even under an official (but poorly enforced) block there, Facebook quietly advertised in late 2010 for a Hanoi position. 

According to the job posting, the company seeks an applicant capable of “communicating with policymakers” and “ensuring the site’s accessibility.”

Japan and South Korea, largely loyal to their homegrown social networks, are two more troublesome countries for Facebook. The tech-obsessed countries have only about 4 million Facebook users combined. Korean authorities in particular are suspicious of Facebook collecting data on its citizens.

If officials officials fear Facebook’s power to coalesce political anger, they need only look at Thailand as an example.

Despite cultural taboos against face-to-face confrontation, Thailand has spawned a notable number of Facebook campaigns channeling fury at various newsmakers and political adversaries.

Within the last month, 300,000 Thais backed a group devoted to denigrating an upper-class, 16-year-old driver who crashed into a van and killed eight people. The campaign insisted the girl was not appropriately remorseful for her wrongdoing.

“May you be cursed so that hell forever chews your heart,” read one comment.

“Some of the most popular groups, actually, are formed around disliking something,” said Benjamas Promchaisiri, a 33-year-old information specialist in Bangkok who joined Facebook last year. “People find it satisfying.”

But Benjamas is far too busy for online hate mongering. Tending her Farmville project — a strawberry ranch overlooked by gingerbread homes and a day-glo “party barn” — is akin to a part-time job.

“I’m on Facebook and Farmville about five hours a day,” she said. “At least.”