Zuckerberg’s response to bombshell Facebook report focuses on whether his surfboard is electric

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted a surfing video to Instagram on 4 July (Instagram / zuck)
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted a surfing video to Instagram on 4 July (Instagram / zuck)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s response to a bombshell New York Times report focused on his rebuttal of a line in the story stating that his surfboard was electric.

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that Facebook manipulated the newsfeeds of users to show positive stories about the company. But in his response to the article, Mr Zuckerberg went to great lengths to clarify that a surfboard he was seen using in a 4 July video was not, in fact, electric, but that he was instead simply pumping it with his legs to propel himself across the water.

“Look, it’s one thing for the media to say false things about my work, but it’s crossing the line to say I’m riding an electric surfboard when that video clearly shows a hydrofoil that I’m pumping with my own legs,” Mr Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook on Tuesday.

Some hydrofoil surfboards do have electric motors, but manual ones are powered by the leg movements of the surfer. Lift Foils is a company that manufactures electric hydrofoil surfboards. They told Insider in 2020 that Mr Zuckerberg owned one of its electric surfboards priced at $12,000 after he was photographed using one in Hawaii.

Mr Zuckerberg didn’t say what in the report by The New York Times was “false”, but Facebook spokesperson Joe Osborne blasted the story on Twitter. “There is zero change in the News Feed ranking,” he said in a statement, according to Insider. “This is a test for an informational unit clearly marked as coming from Facebook. It’s not the first of its kind, and is similar to corporate responsibility initiatives people see in other technology and consumer products.”

According to The New York Times, Facebook’s newsfeed initiative was called Project Amplify and was initially pitched at a January meeting. The paper cited a source present at that meeting and a total of six current and former company staffers in the story.

But Mr Osborne said on Twitter that the meeting never took place. The New York Times cited three sources as saying that Mr Zuckerberg approved Project Amplify, and reported that two sources said the project was tested in three cities in the US in August after the CEO’s green light.

The paper also reported that the company’s communications team put forward a less apologetic media strategy, outlined in a document. The Wall Street Journal had previously cited internal Facebook documents in their reporting of issues at the social media giant such as the spread of misinformation and the mental health impacts of Instagram on teenage girls.

Nick Clegg, Facebook’s Vice President of Global Affairs and former Deputy Prime Minister of the UK, said in an 18 September statement that The Wall Street Journal’s reporting “contained deliberate mischaracterisations of what we are trying to do, and conferred egregiously false motives to Facebook’s leadership and employees”.

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