Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg apologized after criticism for live-streaming a video of him taking a virtual reality tour of hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico to promote a new Facebook feature.
Zuckerberg responded to a comment on the post Tuesday, saying his goal was to show that virtual reality technology “can raise awareness and help us see what’s happening in different parts of the world.”
“I also wanted to share the news of our partnership with the Red Cross to help with the recovery,” he added. “Reading some of the comments, I realize this wasn’t clear, and I’m sorry to anyone that’s offended.”
The promotion showed 3-D cartoon versions of Zuckerberg and Rachel Franklin, from Facebook’s virtual reality team, discussing their new app, while news footage of flooded Puerto Rico was in the background.
Zuckerberg in the video would stumble in his words while making reference to the storm but never identified the hurricane by name.
“One of the things that’s really magical about virtual reality is you can get the feeling that you’re really in a place,” the cartoon Zuckerberg said while video of flooded houses played in the background. “It feels like we’re really here in Puerto Rico where it’s obviously a tough place to get to now.”
“Crazy to feel like you’re in the middle of it,” Franklin added.
In one part of the video that can only highlight plenty of tasteless disgust of the entire fiasco, Zuckerberg gives a high five to Franklin while the background showed the hurricane’s flooding in Puerto Rico.
Hurricane Maria, which resulted in at least 34 deaths, destroyed much of the island’s infrastructure.
What were they promoting again?
Facebook Spaces is an app that allows users to create an avatar, or cartoon image, of themselves and then explore the Earth and beyond through a virtual reality headset.
Users can then navigate through areas they likely couldn’t otherwise. In this case, the demonstration showed off a flooded Puerto Rico or the moon.
It’s similar to an immersive version of the Google Maps Street View.
What have people said?
Technology critics saw the video as an insensitive marketing stunt, calling it “tone-deaf,” “incredible and not in a good way,” and “the height of tastelessness.”
Vanity Fair’s Maya Kosoff called the video a “completely avoidable public-relations disaster.”
But many Facebook users who commented on Zuckerberg’s video post thanked him for both the initiative and the ability to see the damage caused by the hurricane.
“Thanks for sharing Mark. My entire family lives in PR!” wrote one Facebook user. Another said, “thank you for bringing light at what is going on in our beautiful island.”
Whether good or bad PR on Facebook’s behalf, the hurricane had devastated many lives and homes in Puerto Rico.
As natural disasters become more frequent, one should look into homeowner insurance that can let you know that you will be covered when you least expect it.