Wed, May 09, 2018 - Page 13 News List

Taiwan Tourism Bureau in New York apologizes for social media fiasco

Director says texts, photos will be vetted before publication following criticism of misspelled words, grammatical errors, factual inaccuracies

By Chris Fuchs  /  Contributing Reporter in New York

A woman makes the shape of a heart in front of a billboard in New York that was linked via livestream to one in Taipei as part of a tourism ad campaign.

Photos courtesy of Taiwan tourism bureau in new York

The head of Taiwan Tourism Bureau in New York apologized last week for content on its social media platforms that included misspelled words and grammatical errors in English, saying that measures have now been put in place to review posts before they go up.

Director Claire Wen (溫佳思) addressed the controversy stemming from an article last month on the blog Tricky Taipei, which criticized the bureau’s social media campaigns, including on Twitter and Instagram.

“If there are parts that we didn’t handle well, we are sorry,” Wen, speaking in Mandarin, told the Taipei Times in a phone interview on April 30.

The Tricky Taipei posting quickly ignited a firestorm of debate on English and Chinese-language social media platforms, centered on how the Taiwanese government promotes the country overseas and whether its methods are up to par.

“I think the professionalism of the bureau as a government-funded organization is something that we should be questioning as taxpayers,” Kathy Cheng, who runs Tricky Taipei and wrote the article, said in an interview.

Cheng’s April 18 piece referenced the Twitter account @triptotaiwan and the Instagram account of the same handle and featured screenshots of a number of since-deleted postings. The accounts are managed by Tiger Party, a design and development company based in New York whose contract ends on May 31.

The Taiwan Tourism Bureau in New York paid Tiger Party US$313,500 for its work, Wen wrote in Chinese in a follow-up e-mail.

That price tag, among other things, covered two promotional events, related equipment and site rental fees, interactive backend software design and virtual reality filming costs. It also included an official Web site and establishing a fan base and marketing on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, according to Wen.

She added that there aren’t plans to renew the contract.

QUESTIONABLE CONTENT

Among the questionable social media posts was one on Twitter featuring a photo of Kavalan Whisky with the spirit incorrectly spelled “wishky” two times, according to a screen capture on Tricky Taipei.

Another read in part, “Oh!! you don’t like noodles...it’ okay ! we have Chinese Burrito, it’s different between Mexico, no spicy, no sour, everything inside is delicious and healthy.”

Times Square, the physical location of events promoting Taiwan, was also misspelled multiple times as “Time Square.”

“Basically [we] didn’t pay attention when [we] were spelling, so there were spelling mistakes,” said Rafale Chang, Tiger Party’s CEO, speaking in Mandarin during the April 30 joint phone interview with Wen.

Cheng, the blogger, said she was blocked by the Twitter account after sharing the posts on Facebook.

One, according to Tricky Taipei, promoted something called dirty bread (髒髒包), a fad in Asia that has become popular in Taiwan. The bread gets its name from the fact that your hands and face become dirty from the cocoa powder while eating it.

“People are lining up for it,” Cheng said. “But that’s not a reason for somebody to buy a plane ticket to Taiwan.”

She called the posts “just very unprofessional, to the point of being comical.”

“Typos happen, but it was so obviously not written by somebody who’s fluent in English, and then somebody who wasn’t thinking about how to represent Taiwan,” she said.

One post promoting Jiufen (九份), the popular mountain town in northeastern Taiwan, appeared to assert that the location had inspired the Japanese animation Spirited Away, according to Tricky Taipei. The blog article, however, said that the posting was inaccurate, pointing to a video clip from one news outlet that appeared to show the director taking issue with that claim.

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