Mark Zuckerberg Apologizes for ‘Magical’ VR Tour of Hurricane-Ravaged Puerto Rico

Viewers called the CEO out for promotional effort

Zuckerberg's 360-degree video sparked immediate criticism. Facebook: Mark Zuckerberg
Headshot of Lauren Johnson

On Monday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Rachel Franklin—who leads the social network’s virtual reality work—livestreamed a 360-degree video from the top of a building on Facebook’s Menlo Park, Calif., campus to show the damage in Puerto Rico from the recent hurricanes.

The two called the video a “magical tour” and used the company’s five-month-old Facebook Spaces VR app that turns users into cartoon characters. As Zuckerberg and Franklin talked, footage of the devastated area captured by NPR ran in the background.

Immediate criticism on social media called Zuckerberg’s clip tone-deaf and accused him of “exploiting disaster” by promoting Facebook’s VR initiatives.

Zuckerberg later apologized, saying that his intentions for using VR were not clear initially.

“One of the most powerful features of VR is empathy,” he commented on the video. “My goal here was to show how VR 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. Reading some of the comments, I realize this wasn’t clear, and I’m sorry to anyone this offended.”

Facebook’s annual Oculus conference is set to kick off later today, where the company will talk about the latest innovations in VR.

@laurenjohnson Lauren Johnson is a senior technology editor for Adweek, where she specializes in covering mobile, social platforms and emerging tech.