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(RT) — Facebook reportedly conducted a secret campaign to push more positive content about the platform – some written internally – via its users’ ‘News Feeds’ in a bid to counter the effects of negative media coverage on its reputation.

The social media giant’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg apparently personally approved the initiative – dubbed ‘Project Amplify’ – in August, despite Facebook executives being shocked by the idea when it was proposed at a meeting in January, according to the New York Times.

Since being approved in August, Facebook has reportedly trialed the initiative in three unidentified US cities using a tool called ‘Quick Promotes’ that pushed positive stories about the company and its products on the network’s most important feature, News Feeds.

The site’s users in these cities would see posts with the Facebook logo that linked to stories and websites published by the company and on third-party local news sites. For instance, one such story with the headline ‘Facebook’s Latest Innovations for 2021’ detailed how it was pursuing “100% renewable energy for our global operations.”

According to the newspaper, this is the first time Facebook has explicitly promoted positive press about itself. The report links the campaign to a “multi-pronged effort” adopted since that January meeting to “aggressively reshape its image” by distancing Zuckerberg from scandals, reducing access to internal data, hiding potentially negative reports, and developing more ad campaigns about itself.

In contrast to its previously apologetic response to scandals such as the Cambridge Analytica data leak, Facebook’s PR strategy has become increasingly combative in recent months – during, for instance, its response to a Wall Street Journal report last week about the existence of a shadowy internal system that protected millions of high-profile Facebook users from its content-moderation practices.

After a barrage of criticism, including from former US President Donald Trump, Facebook VP of Global Affairs Nick Clegg published a blog post that called out the publication for "deliberate mischaracterizations," alleging that it "conferred egregiously false motives" on company officials.

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Facebook’s VP of Integrity Guy Rosen and spokesperson Andy Stone also took to tweeting about the article and publication, claiming there was “no news here” and saying the company had talked about the existence of the so-called ‘Cross check’ system “for years.”

In July, Rosen pushed back against President Biden’s contention that the social network was “killing people” by spreading Covid-19 misinformation. In a blog post, he accused the Biden administration of “finger pointing” and said Facebook was “not the reason” the White House missed its goal of vaccinating “70% of Americans” by the US Independence Day holiday.

However, claims emerged in August that Facebook had suppressed a transparency report for the first quarter of 2021, which stated a story that could be seen as promoting vaccine hesitancy was the most-viewed link on the platform in that period, on the grounds that it would reflect poorly on the company’s efforts to tackle Covid misinformation.

The blog post by Clegg referenced another recent WSJ article that cited Facebook’s internal documents – including research reports, employee discussions and presentations – to report that the company had downplayed the “ill effects” of its Instagram app on young users despite knowing about them.

That article also drew a response from Instagram’s Public Policy Head Karina Newton, who wrote in a blog post that the publication focused on a “limited set of findings” and cast them in a “negative light.” Defending the company, it also touted the line about research on the subject being “nascent and evolving.”

In a series of tweets addressing the NYT article, Facebook spokesperson Joe Osborne criticized the publication for attempting to “villainize” the company, and dismissed the story as containing “clear falsehoods.”

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