By Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.
Zuckerberg Slammed for Tone-Deaf Virtual-Reality Tour of Devastated Puerto Rico
In a move that rivaled the president tossing rolls of paper towels, free-throw style, into a crowd of hurricane survivors, Mark Zuckerberg created his own completely avoidable public-relations disaster Monday when he chose to demonstrate Facebook’s new Facebook Spaces app—which lets users explore real destinations as Wii-like cartoon avatars—in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.
Donning an Oculus Rift headset, Zuckerberg and Rachel Franklin, Facebook’s head of social V.R., embarked on a “magical” tour of the devastated island—where many residents are still without electrical power and much-needed food and supplies—in an attempt to explain how Facebook Spaces related to Facebook’s disaster relief efforts.
“We’re in a 360 video in Puerto Rico . . . we’re on a bridge here, it’s flooded,” grinning cartoon Zuckerberg said in the Facebook Live video. “You can get a sense of some of the damage here that the hurricanes have done, and 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 background video, provided by NPR, featured flooded streets and Puerto Ricans clearing their homes of debris.
In an attempt to connect Facebook’s newest feature to its humanitarian efforts, he added that the company is “very focused on trying to help out in the recovery effort.
” The social-media giant enabled its Safety Check feature and community assistance features in Puerto Rico, a disembodied cartoon avatar of Zuckerberg explained, adding that the company was working with the Red Cross to construct satellite imagery to help direct volunteers and aid workers to different parts of the island.
Nevertheless, the backlash on social media was swift. “The awful taste of this demo shows how far out of his depth Zuckerberg is running Facebook,” one Twitter user said. “Need more human adults.”
Zuckerberg—who isn’t known for his people skills, despite recently embarking on a cross-country road trip to “get to know his users better”—is already under fire for his company’s role in Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
Last month, Facebook handed over more than 3,000 ads it claims were purchased by a Russian troll farm from 2015 to 2017, and the company is currently cooperating with congressional investigators.
Evidently, Zuckerberg didn’t anticipate that his Puerto Rican tour might add fuel to the flames.
“This street is just completely flooded,” he said.
“Can you see this behind me? I mean, this is what it looks like down here.”
Franklin responded: “It’s crazy to feel like you’re in the middle of it.”
“Yeah,” Zuckerberg said.
“You want to go teleport to somewhere else?”
They then took off for the surface of the moon.