No more excuses: Inside Facebook’s push to defend its image


The changes will involve Facebook executives from the marketing, communications, policy and integrity teams. Alex Schultz, a 14-year veteran of the company who was named chief marketing officer last year, has also had an impact on image reform, said five people who worked with him. But at least one of the decisions was prompted by Mr. Zuckerberg, and they were all approved by him, three people said.

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Joe Osborne, a Facebook spokesperson, denied that the company had changed its approach.

“People deserve to know the steps we are taking to address the various issues facing our business — and we are going to share those steps broadly,” he said in a statement.

Facebook executives have been annoyed for years that their company seemed to get more criticism than Google and Twitter, current and former employees said. They attributed that attention to the fact that Facebook is exposing itself more with its apologies and giving access to internal data, the people said.

So in January, executives held a virtual meeting and suggested the idea of ​​a more aggressive defense, one participant said. The group discussed using the news feed to promote positive news about the company, as well as running ads linking to favorable articles about Facebook. They also debated how to define a pro-Facebook story, two participants said.

That same month, the communications team discussed ways executives could be less conciliatory when responding to crises and decided there would be fewer apologies, two people with knowledge of the plan said.

Zuckerberg, who had become entwined with policy issues including the 2020 election, also wanted to rearrange himself as an innovator, the people said. In January, the communications team distributed a document outlining a strategy to distance Mr. Zuckerberg from scandal, in part by focusing his Facebook posts and media appearances on new products, they said.

The Information, a tech news site, formerly reported on the document.

The impact was immediate. On Jan. 11, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer — and not Mr. Zuckerberg — said told Reuters that the storming of the US Capitol a week earlier had little to do with Facebook. In July, when President Biden said the social network was “killing people” by spreading misinformation about Covid-19, Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice president for integrity, challenged the characterization. in a blog post and pointed out that the White House had missed its coronavirus vaccination targets.

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