Japanese city moves entire website to Facebook

Takeo's mayor stresses the open use of real names, in contrast to mostly anonymous Japanese social sites

A Japanese city is the first in the country to replace its public website with a Facebook page, as officials stressed the open nature of the social network as their main motivation.

Facebook has been slow to catch on in the country, in large part because users prefer online hangouts where they can remain anonymous, such as "mixi," a large Japanese social network.

But city officials in Takeo, a city on the southern island of Kyushu, said that when they attempted to use such services, users tended to post petty remarks and rude commentary rather than have real discourse.

"When people give their opinions or ask questions, they should take responsibility for this as adults, and this should be done using their real names," said Takeo Mayor Keisuke Hiwatashi, speaking at a press conference on Monday broadcast online.

Takeo officials have set up the Facebook page so that anyone can see the contents, but only registered members can leave comments. Much of the material is hosted on government servers, but is only viewable through the Facebook page.

Naoyuki Miyaguchi, a member of the city hall's eight-member Facebook team, said the transition cost about 630,000 yen ($8,200). He said the move was resisted by many locals in the city of about 51,000 people known for its local hot spring baths, because many were not familiar with Facebook.

"We have received a lot of complaints online, but these have had a reasonable basis and are not just meaningless criticism as before, so we can address them," Miyaguchi said.

As Facebook slowly adds users in Japan, official entities, including the office of the Prime Minister and the country's navy, have established pages on the site. But Takeo officials said they were the first local government to switch completely -- the city's old web address now redirects visitors to its Facebook page.

In an online debate about the switch hosted on the city's Facebook page, some members expressed reservations.

"I think there are some residents that won't like having their identity known on the site," wrote one user, registered under a pseudonym.

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Jay Alabaster

IDG News Service
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