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Malaysian government's Facebook faux pas

The Tourism Ministry spent $600,000 on its Facebook presence, which critics say was a total waste.
Facebook malaysia 2011 06 22Enlarge
A Malaysian professional uses Facebook in Kuala Lumpur on October 31, 2010. (Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images)

Some 6-year-olds can do it without any help or even allowance money, but the Malaysian government apparently needed $600,000 to figure out Facebook.

Or so critics say.

Malaysians are up in arms over the fact that the Tourism Ministry spent nearly $600,000 on six Facebook pages.

The pages, one of which is Cuti-Cuti 1Malaysia, are used to promote tourism, and the ministry has said the money went toward everything from coding and flash programming to campaign management, according to the Malaysian Insider.

Still, many netizens feel that it was a misappropriation of funds in a country that still rife with corruption despite its aim to become an economic powerhouse by the year 2020.

In the words of one blogger, Fared Isa: "To think that the Tourism Ministry threw away RM1.8 million of taxpayers' money on something that is free, makes me want to throw up."

To prove how absurd the expenditure was, critics set up the satirical page, Curi-Curi Wang Malaysi — practically overnight ... for free. The page attracted 120,000 followers, at least three times the number the main Cuti-Cuti 1Malaysia page, according to one blogger.

But the Malaysian government has come to its own defense, issuing a press release that details exactly what the money was used for.

And Global Voices helped put the numbers in perspective, pointing to how much other major social media campaigns have cost as well as the social-networking budgets in other countries.

"It isn't free, and it certainly isn't cheap. Pepsi spent US$20 million on a social media campaign. Yup, that includes ONE Facebook page," wrote blogger Aizuddin Danian.

Australia reportedly plans to shell close to out $160 million over the next three years, according to socialmedianews.com.au. And the Philippines, which is poorer than Malaysia, has plans to spend $2.3 million on social-networking, according to another blogger.

Perhaps the Malaysian government's biggest faux pas was in not explaining that well in ther first place.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/the-rice-bowl/malaysia-facebook-social-networking-tourism-kuala-lumpur