When Mark Zuckerberg came to a Senate hearing to address parents of children who have been exploited, bullied or self-harmed via social media, the outdated convention seemed to be brought back to life.
“I'm sorry for everything you've been through,” the Meta CEO said Wednesday. “No one should have to go through what you and your families have gone through.” Then he returned to corporate mode, noting Meta's continued investments in “industry-wide” efforts to protect children.
Zuckerberg has amassed a long history of public apologies, often issued in the wake of a crisis or when Facebook users rise up against unannounced — and often unappreciated — changes to its service. It's a history that stands in stark contrast to his peers in tech, who generally prefer not to speak publicly outside of carefully stage-managed product demonstrations. But it's also true that Facebook has a lot to apologize for.
Whether people always buy his apologies or not, Zuckerberg no doubt feels it's important to make them himself. Here's a quick and comprehensive rundown of some notable Zuckerberg apologies and the circumstances that led to them.
Blinded by Beacon
Facebook's first major privacy blow was a service called Beacon, which the platform launched in 2007. Intended to usher in a new era of “social” advertising, Beacon tracked user purchases and activities on other sites and then published them in friends' newsfeeds. Without requesting permission. After the massive backlash — well, it was massive at the time — Zuckerberg wrote in a blog post partially transcribed by TechCrunch, “We've made a lot of mistakes building this feature, but we've done more than how we did it. handled them.” Beacon didn't last long.
Mocking FACEBOOK'S EARLY USERS
In an early account of Facebook's founding, 19-year-old Mark Zuckerberg mocked the roughly 4,000 students who had signed up to his fledgling service, bragging to friends in text messages about the vast amount of personal information he had collected. A mistaken belief of his users. Zuckerberg called them “dumb” and punctuated the word with an obscenity. When Silicon Alley Insider, a predecessor of Business Insider, published those messages in 2010, Zuckerberg apologized in an interview for the New Yorker story, saying he “absolutely” regretted the comments.
Burying the federal settlement
On November 9, 2011, the Federal Trade Commission subjected Facebook to stricter privacy oversight, noting that and more.
That same day, Zuckerberg posted a 1,418-word essay entitled “Our Commitment to the Facebook Community” that didn't mention the FTC's action for a third and described mistakes like Beacon's as a “bunch of mistakes.”
A VR tour of the disaster zone
Zuckerberg's fascination with virtual reality long predated the decision to rebrand Facebook as Meta Platforms. On October 9, 2017, he and a Facebook employee participated in a live VR tour of Puerto Rico in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The pair dive into pre-recorded 3-D footage of the damage and recovery efforts; Zuckerberg described the you-are-there feeling as “one of the really magical things about virtual reality,” especially since, as he says, “it's a really hard place to get to right now.”
He later described Facebook's own recovery efforts, but the conflicting video received so many complaints that Zuckerberg posted a brief apology in a video chat, explaining that his attempt to showcase Facebook's efforts at disaster recovery was not very clear and that he apologized to anyone. He was offended.
In 2018, news broke that Facebook allowed apps to scrape large amounts of data from users' accounts and their friends without oversight. While hundreds of apps were involved, it focused on data collected from 87 million Facebook users and forwarded to Cambridge Analytica, a UK political data mining firm with ties to then-President Trump's political strategist Steve Bannon. That data was used to target voters during the 2016 US presidential campaign that led to Trump's election.
Zuckerberg first apologized for the scandal on CNN, saying Facebook had a “responsibility” to protect its users' data and that if it failed, “we wouldn't be able to serve the public.” He gave a version of that apology in testimony before Congress later that year, saying “we didn't take a broad enough view of our responsibility,” including failures to curb fake news and hate speech, as well as poor data privacy controls. Adequately addressing foreign interference in the 2016 election on Facebook.