No News is Good News
Facebook, tired of all the news stories about how it had become a cesspool of vaccine misinformation, conservative agitprop, body-shaming, and other societal harms, came up with a plan at a January meeting to use Facebook's own News Feed to promote Facebook, The New York Times reports. CEO Mark Zuckerberg signed off on the initiative, code-named Project Amplify, in August, and the company quickly began test-marketing the plan in three U.S. cities.
"The idea was that pushing pro-Facebook news items — some of them written by the company — would improve its image in the eyes of its users," the Times reports, citing three people with knowledge of the effort. "But the move was sensitive because Facebook had not previously positioned the News Feed as a place where it burnished its own reputation. Several executives at the meeting were shocked by the proposal, one attendee said."
Project Amplify was just one part of a multifaceted push to improve Facebook's image, which executives decided was being undermined by high-profile apologies by Zuckerberg and other top leaders and Facebook's practice of letting researchers study internal data. So in January, the Times reports, Facebook also decided there would be less apologizing, and the company started closing off access to its data and shutting out researchers who utilized it. Facebook also reportedly started distancing Zuckerberg from the social media platform's scandals and focused on recasting him as an innovator, at his request.
"They're realizing that no one else is going to come to their defense, so they need to do it and say it themselves," Katie Harbath, a former Facebook public policy director, told the Times.
Facebook spokesman Joe Osborne told the Times his company has not changed its approach and compared Project Amplify to "corporate responsibility initiatives people see in other technology and consumer products." He said the Facebook-promoted posts are "clearly marked" and said "people deserve to know the steps we're taking to address the different issues facing our company — and we're going to share those steps widely." For his part, Zuckerberg took issue with the Times describing "a hydrofoil that I'm pumping with my own legs" while carrying an American flag as an "electric surfboard." Read more at The New York Times.