Mark Zuckerberg Still Seems to Think Facebook’s Big Problem Is Bad P.R.

Mark Zuckerberg has lengthy insisted that Fb is a pressure for social good, the advantages of which outweigh the hurt. Whereas he might have succeeded in convincing himself of this, many others—inside the firm, in Washington, and past—seem much less persuaded, particularly as ongoing points with the platform come to be seen as options relatively than bugs. Seemingly annoyed that he can’t get management of the narrative, Zuckerberg reportedly signed off final month on an much more aggressive plan to restore his firm’s picture.

In keeping with the New York Occasions, Venture Amplify was first proposed earlier this 12 months, and entails bombarding customers with pro-Fb tales within the platform’s Information Feed function to offer customers a extra constructive view of the corporate. The plan “shocked” a number of executives when it was pitched at a digital assembly in January, an attendee informed the Occasions: “Fb had not beforehand positioned the Information Feed as a spot the place it burnished its personal popularity,” the paper reported. However the plan was a part of a broader technique on the a part of the corporate to extra forcefully defend itself in opposition to critics and distance Zuckerberg, its founder, from the scandals which have battered the model.

“They’re realizing that nobody else goes to come back to their protection,” former Fb public coverage director Katie Harbath informed the Occasions, “so they should do it and say it themselves.”

Joe Osborne, an organization spokesman, stated Fb had not modified its strategy, and informed the Occasions that customers “need to know the steps we’re taking to deal with the completely different points dealing with our firm.” “We’re going to share these steps extensively,” Osborne stated. Oddly, Zuckerberg responded to the Occasions piece by specializing in a short point out of him using an digital surfboard. “Look, it is one factor for the media to say false issues about my work,” he wrote on Fb, “but it surely’s crossing the road to say I am using an electrical surfboard when that video clearly reveals a hydrofoil that I am pumping with my very own legs.”

Fb has, certainly, been extra assertive not too long ago in its efforts to fight poisonous content material on the platform; earlier this 12 months, it took what might have been its boldest step but when it booted then-President Donald Trump within the wake of his inciting the January 6 assault on Capitol Hill. However it has continued to wrestle in opposition to disinformation and dangerous content material and has dodged transparency, as a collection of Wall Road Journal reports final week made clear. Among the many investigation’s findings: the corporate’s personal analysis made clear that Instagram, which it owns, had harmful impact on teenage ladies’ psychological well being; it has been overmatched by the scourge of misinformation about COVID-19 and the vaccines; and it gave preferential remedy to high-profile customers, a matter Fb’s oversight board is now reportedly probing. Fb could also be doing extra to deal with the problems on its platform—but it surely additionally nonetheless appears to deal with criticism extra as a PR downside than a substantive downside to resolve.

Certainly, firm leaders appear to be embracing their worst tendencies relatively than shifting away from them: Moderately than growing transparency, the Occasions report means that Fb has sought to clamp down on its inner information. Moderately than take accountability for the corporate’s failures, Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, and different executives have tried to distance themselves from them—together with, maybe, by paying further to the Federal Commerce Fee to keep away from being held personally liable within the Cambridge Analytica scandal, as a lawsuit filed by shareholders final month and made public Tuesday alleged. (Fb declined to remark to Politico.) “The Board has by no means supplied a critical examine on Zuckerberg’s unfettered authority,” the swimsuit costs. “As an alternative, it has enabled him, defended him, and paid billions of {dollars} from Fb’s company coffers to make his issues go away.”

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