LONDON: A recently launched Facebook initiative codenamed Project Amplify was set up to push pro-platform stories on users’ news feeds, The New York Times reported.
And some of the promoted articles were written by the social networking giant to help paint the company in a positive light, the newspaper claimed.
The article said Project Amplify came into being at a meeting in January with the aim of reshaping Facebook’s image by adopting a multi-faceted approach including measures such as distancing the chief executive officer, Mark Zuckerberg, from controversies, and reducing external access to data.
Despite Facebook owning up to some of its mistakes and promising to take corrective measures, the platform continued to come under fire for the same issues. As a result, Facebook executives decided to go on the offensive with a new approach involving marketing, communications, policy, and integrity teams, sources revealed.
Although Zuckerberg did not drive all the decisions as part of the new initiative, he reportedly approved them.
Denying the newspaper’s claims, Facebook spokesperson Joe Osborne said: “People deserve to know the steps we’re taking to address the different issues facing our company — and we’re going to share those steps widely.”
Since the recent launch of the new project, Facebook has been testing the changes in three US cities through a tool called Quick Promote. The stories appear with a Facebook logo and link to websites published by the company as well as third-party websites.
Osborne told The New York Times that it was a “test for an informational unit clearly marked as coming from Facebook,” adding that the new initiative was “similar to corporate responsibility initiatives people see in other technology and consumer products.”
In a series of tweets, Osborne said The New York Times’ article had attempted to “villainize Facebook,” included “clear falsehoods,” and had left out part of his statement which included him saying, “there is zero change to News Feed ranking.”
He added that the January meeting had never taken place, although according to the newspaper report one attendee had claimed that several executives at the meeting were shocked by the proposal.
Osborne concluded his tweets by suggesting that The New York Times’ story should have written that, “Facebook ran a small test of an informational unit on Facebook in three cities – clearly labeled as from Facebook on the top of the unit,” along with an image of what the stories looked like.