Mission Difficult: Cleaning up Zuckerberg’s image

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has promised a quest down the digital highways to make himself more visible as the PR machine attempts to save the company’s brand.

Posting on his own Facebook page, Zuckerberg has stated he will host a series of discussions and debates concerning the role of technology and the internet in tomorrow’s society. Each of the events will be hosted on one of Facebook’s platforms, taking place every couple of weeks, as the usually publicity shy CEO attempts to reverse a very damaging 12 months for the brand.

“This will be intellectually interesting, but there’s a personal challenge for me here too. I’m an engineer, and I used to just build out my ideas and hope they’d mostly speak for themselves,” said Zuckerberg.

“But given the importance of what we do, that doesn’t cut it anymore. So I’m going to put myself out there more than I’ve been comfortable with and engage more in some of these debates about the future, the trade-offs we face, and where we want to go.”

Facebook’s impact on 2018 has been highly publicised and, more often than not, negative. For all the influence which the platform has on today’s society, the nefarious, ignorant and abusive side was showcased more than anything else. Whether it was executives knowingly pushing unethical features onto the consumer, suspect influences on incredibly important elections or failing to uphold promises to user privacy and data protection, 2018 was not a good year for the business.

Perhaps one of the most interesting chapters in this story has been Zuckerberg’s role of inaction and inaccessibility. Just when Facebook needed an influential figure to stand tall and confront the difficulties faced, Zuckerberg retreated to the shadows, compounding the problem. To date he’s refused to attend certain meetings with politicians and avoided taking responsibility for his company’s failings to the general public and the transformation of society.

There is of course nothing wrong with being shy or not enjoying being the centre of attention, but it comes with the territory when you are leading one of the most influential companies on the planet. Zuckerberg’s inability to tackle problems head on, sending minions instead or just not turning up at all, escalated the criticism and was a PR disaster.

By refusing to be accessible, Zuckerberg completely undermined and contradicted the concept of Facebook as a platform. He’s also damaged his relationship with rule makers at a critical time. Rules and regulations will be changing over the next couple of years as governments look to take more control over the OTTs. With millions being spent on lobbyists every year to try and encourage a more favourable regulatory landscape for Silicon Valley, Zuckerberg seems to be undermining these effort by antagonising politicians.

If Facebook is to return to yesteryears image of admiration and respect, not only does it have to clean up the platform, ensure data privacy and better protect its users, it has to ensure its CEO is sending the right message and its business practises are more transparent.

Not many people trust Facebook on the whole today and Zuckerberg’s reputation has been damaged. Something need to be done and this is certainly a step in the right direction.

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