Facebook has been hit with a number of scathing media investigations this month, like one revealing the company’s penchant for sending researchers totally incomplete data and another claiming the company knows it’s toxic for teenage girls. Most recently, The New York Times published an inside look at “Project Amplify,” which pushes pro-Facebook stories onto users’ News Feeds.
The report speaks about Facebook’s attempts to rehabilitate its public image and states explicitly that CEO Mark Zuckerberg has “signed off” on Project Amplify’s underhanded strategy. Putting Facebook on the offense here is a pretty radical switch-up for the company, which has long chosen retreat and defense in response to criticism.
Rather than thinking up a genuine response to this report or, I don’t know, just simply keeping his mouth shut, Zuckerberg wrote up a quick Facebook post last night. He chose to focus on one line from the NYT report about a video he’d posted of himself riding an electric surfboard.
“Look, it's one thing for the media to say false things about my work,” he wrote, “but it's crossing the line to say I'm riding an electric surfboard when that video clearly shows a hydrofoil that I'm pumping with my own legs.”
Is this…a joke? — It’s unclear why Zuckerberg — who is often silent on social media unless announcing a new product or posting about his leisure time — decided to make this post. It reads as a joke, poking fun at the NYT’s story in a way that doesn’t outright call its claims inaccurate.
If we assume this is meant to be a joking jab from Zuckerberg, it’s a pretty miserable one. It reads as an unsubtle diversionary tactic (and it’s not good at doing that, either).
Zuck didn’t just post-and-go, either: He doubled down in the comments with more attempts at humor. Why do this, Mark?
Osborne says no way — While Zuckerberg didn’t explicitly rebuke this particular NYT report, others in his camp did not bite their tongues. Joe Osborne, a Facebook spokesperson, wrote a detailed Twitter thread about what the report gets wrong. He says the test in question was an “informational unit” meant to keep Facebook users up to date on the company’s activities.
Facebook’s true intentions with Project Amplify are out of our grasp. In many ways, it’s Facebook’s word against everyone else’s, because no one outside of Facebook was privy to these conversations. But NYT’s reporters did speak to multiple internal sources who claimed Project Amplify was an image-rehab attempt. Other publications have reported similar efforts from Facebook in recent months.
Of at least one thing we can be certain: that surfboard was not electric. Thanks for pointing it out, Mark.