Zuck WYD: Facebook Chief Apologizes for Tone-Deaf Virtual Puerto Rico Trip

Mark Zuckerberg video screenshot via Facebook
Mark Zuckerberg video screenshot via Facebook

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has apologized for a cringeworthy video that praises the magic of virtual reality—while soaking in scenes of devastation from Puerto Rico.

As the Washington Post reports, Zuckerberg apologized via a short Facebook comment underneath the original video he posted. The Facebook user Zuckerberg replied to thanked the Facebook founder for the virtual trip through Puerto Rico because his “entire family” lived there.

Mark Zuckerberg via Facebook screenshot
Mark Zuckerberg via Facebook screenshot

“One of the most powerful features of VR is empathy,” wrote the Facebook founder, adding that the goal of the video was to show how virtual reality can “raise awareness.”

“I also wanted to share the news of our partnership with the Red Cross to help with recovery,” Zuckerberg wrote. “Reading some of the comments, I realize this wasn’t clear, and I’m sorry to anyone this offended.”

The app Zuckerberg was promoting, Facebook Spaces, was described by the Post as being a more immersive version of Google Maps.

While Zuckerberg’s intentions may have been well-placed, the video makes for some discomfiting scenes, especially given the grim state of affairs on the island.


“One of the things that’s really magical about virtual reality is you can get the feeling that you’re really in a place,” an animated Zuckerberg said while video of flooded houses played in the background. At one point, his avatar and that of Rachel Franklin, from Facebook’s virtual reality team, high-five in front of a flooded street. “It feels like we’re really here in Puerto Rico, where it’s obviously a tough place to get to now.”

The video, with 360-degree footage taken from NPR, is made all the more surreal by the cartoon figures. Franklin’s avatar, for example, had flowing blond hair that would periodically billow in front of an image of a damaged bridge. Then there’s the weird Justin Timberlake-ish cheese curls that are supposed to represent Zuckerberg’s hair.

Obscured by cartoon Zuckerberg’s cheery demeanor and mac-and-cheese hair is the harsh reality of the recovery effort on the island.


There are still uncounted bodies in Puerto Rico, making it certain that the current death toll of 34 will rise as roads are fixed and communication improves around the island. According to Puerto Rico’s government site, a little more than half of the island’s hospitals have electricity (though all of them are open and running), while 40 percent of Puerto Ricans still need access to potable water.

Read more at the Washington Post.

Staff writer, The Root.

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Zuckerberg has a habit of doing this. He doesn’t strike me as a cartoonishly evil tycoon, he aligns a bit more with billionaires like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, with the exception of always sprinkling in promotions for Facebook when he’s trying to do philanthropy.

Maybe I just missed it, but I haven’t seen Buffet or Gates do that. Maybe they’re just more seasoned at the whole “I’m a mega rich billionaire who’s decided to make philanthropy my main hobby” thing.