Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg says sorry for ‘tasteless’ Puerto Rico VR video

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg says sorry for ‘tasteless’ Puerto Rico VR video

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Mark Zuckerberg has apologised for a video showing him taking a virtual reality tour of a heavily damaged Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

The Facebook boss appeared as a cartoonish avatar in a video made through the VR app Spaces to explain how the social media giant was using artificial intelligence technologies and satellite images to help deliver aid in Puerto Rico.

The 145mph winds of Hurricane Maria left homes wrecked and infrastructure shattered when it struck in September.

Mr Zuckerberg was attempting to explain how Facebook’s computer vision technologies allowed it to build population maps, creating a profile for infrastructure from satellite imagery.

“That’s going to help the Red Cross figure out where people are who need help,” he said.


Toa Baha in Puerto Rico was left flooded after Hurricane Maria

Video:
Puerto Rico reeling from hurricane damage

However the tone of the video provoked a backlash in the comments section of the post and on the wider web where people were criticising the firm, accusing it of joking about the suffering of the islanders.

One critic said it was the “height of tastelessness”, while another said Mr Zuckerberg “should be ashamed”.

Others called the video “tone-deaf” and “incredible and not in a good way”.

Alexander J Perez complained on Facebook: “Ok? You are joking about the People of Puerto Rico??? What’s wrong with you people???? This is not a game dude it’s serious.”

And on Twitter, @basecreative wrote: “Not sure this is the best idea Mark Zuckerberg has ever had! Seems very tasteless.”

Mr Zuckerberg claimed: “One of the most powerful features of VR is empathy.

“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 realise this wasn’t clear, and I’m sorry to anyone this offended.”

The chief executive explained the response to the VR stunt by saying: “When you’re in VR yourself, the surroundings feel quite real.

“But that sense of empathy doesn’t extend well to people watching you as a virtual character on a 2D screen. That’s something we’ll need to work on over time.”

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