Facebook artificially boosts flattering stories and Zuckerberg American flag videos to reshape its image: report
Mark Zuckerberg (screen shot/Instagram)

Facebook is aggressively trying to reshape its image after years of criticism for violating users' privacy, and allowing disinformation and hate speech.

In the past, Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg have publicly apologized for the social media platform's major missteps, such as allowing Russian interference on the site during the 2016 presidential election, according to a report from the New York Times.

Recently, however, Zuckerberg and other executives decided to shift their strategy and go on the offensive, denying responsibility for things like COVID-19 vaccine disinformation, and blocking access to data that allowed academics and journalists to study how the platform worked.

Zuckerberg also recently signed off on Project Amplify, an initiative in which Facebook has been using its News Feed — its most important digital real estate — to artificially boost positive stories about, well, itself.

"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, three people with knowledge of the effort said," according to the NYT report. "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."

According to the NYT, Zuckerberg wanted to recast himself as an innovator and distance himself from scandals, so executives came up with a strategy of focusing his Facebook and Instagram posts on new products.

"Rather than addressing corporate controversies, Mr. Zuckerberg's posts have recently featured a video of himself riding across a lake carrying an American flag, with messages about new virtual reality and hardware devices," the NYT reports. "Once the tests began, Facebook used a system known as Quick Promotes to place stories about people and organizations that used the social network into users' News Feeds, they said. People essentially see posts with a Facebook logo that link to stories and websites published by the company and from third-party local news sites. One story pushed 'Facebook's Latest Innovations for 2021' and discussed how it was achieving '100 percent renewable energy for our global operations.'"

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