Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg approved a plan last month to use Facebook’s "News Feed" to promote positive coverage of the embattled social media platform as it aims to improve its image, according to a report Tuesday.
Dubbed "Project Amplify," the plan "shocked" several Facebook executives when it was unveiled at an internal meeting in January, the New York Times reported, citing an attendee with knowledge of what transpired. Facebook hadn’t previously used its "News Feed" section to promote positive coverage about itself.
Aside from positive news stories, the initiative also called for the promotion of some posts written by Facebook employees. Users would see posts marked with a Facebook logo that linked out to stories written by the company or a local news outlet. Facebook reportedly tested the initiative in three U.S. cities after Zuckerberg approved it in August.
In response to the Times’ report, Facebook spokesman Joe Osborne said Project Amplify was "a test for an informational unit clearly marked as coming from Facebook."
Osborne argued the initiative was "similar to corporate responsibility initiatives people see in other technology and consumer products."
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.
The report detailed several efforts by Facebook to improve its reputation amid intense public pressure over the company’s handling of various scandals, including concerns about user data privacy, hate speech, the spread of misinformation and the impact of social media on mental health.
Current and former Facebook employees told the outlet that executives decided earlier this year to "go on the offensive" after the platform’s previous apologetic stance on matters of public concern failed to change its reputation.
The company has purportedly attempted to distance Zuckerberg from Facebook’s response to scandals. Instead, Zuckerberg began posting about new products and initiatives.
The Times reported Facebook also took steps to limit access to internal data.
Osborne denied Facebook has shifted its messaging strategy.
Facebook has been the subject of several critical reports in recent days. Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal published a series of stories detailing leaked internal research from Facebook, including data that acknowledged Instagram was negatively impacting the mental health of teenage users.
The Senate Commerce Committee is set to hold a hearing on the impact of social media on child safety in the coming days, with executives from top platforms, including Facebook, expected to attend.