The changes involved Facebook’s leadership in its marketing, communications, policy and integrity teams. Alex Schultz, a 14-year veteran of the company who was appointed chief marketing officer last year, has also been instrumental in the image reshaping effort, said five people who have worked with him . But at least one of the decisions was motivated by Mr Zuckerberg, and all of them were approved by him, three of the people said.
Joe Osborne, a Facebook spokesperson, denied the company has changed its approach.
“People deserve to know the steps we are taking to address the various issues facing our business – and we will be sharing those steps widely,” he said in a statement.
For years, Facebook executives have resented how their business seemed to come under more scrutiny than Google and Twitter, current and former employees have said. They attributed this attention to Facebook letting itself be more exposed with its apologies and giving access to internal data, the people said.
So in January, leaders held a virtual meeting and discussed the idea of a more aggressive defense, one participant said. The group discussed using the news feed to promote positive news about the company, as well as running ads related to favorable articles on Facebook. They also debated how to define a pro-Facebook story, two participants said.
That same month, the communications team discussed ways for leaders to be less accommodating when responding to crises and decided there would be fewer excuses, said two people familiar with the plan.
Mr Zuckerberg, who had been involved in political issues, including the 2020 election, also wanted to redefine himself as an innovator, people said. In January, the communications team released a document outlining a strategy to keep Mr Zuckerberg away from scandals, in part by focusing his Facebook posts and media appearances on new products, they said.
The Information, a technology news site, previously reported on the document.
The impact was immediate. On January 11, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg – not Mr. Zuckerberg – told Reuters that the storming of the United States Capitol a week earlier had little to do with Facebook. In July, when President Biden said the social network was “killing people” by spreading disinformation about Covid-19, Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice president of integrity, took issue with the characterization in a blog post and pointed out that the White House had missed its coronavirus vaccination targets.