By Kirsten Korosec
October 10, 2017

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is coming under fire after promoting his company’s new 3D virtual reality product Facebook Spaces in a way that some critics said exploited the very real disaster that continues to unfold in Hurricane Maria-ravaged Puerto Rico.

On Monday, Zuckerberg live-streamed a virtual reality video of his 3D cartoon self—along with Facebook’s head of social VR Rachel Franklin—”touring” Puerto Rico, which was hit by a Category 4 hurricane in September. Puerto Rico is facing a humanitarian crisis as the 3.4 million people who live on the island endure widespread power outages, a lack of phone or Internet service, damaged buildings, and flooding that has slowed recovery efforts.

The brief, live demonstration was meant to promote the company’s upcoming Oculus Rift developer conference later this week and to talk about the company’s humanitarian efforts.

Read more: Why Software Is Crucial For Facebook’s Vision Of Virtual Reality

The demo was viewed by many on social media as opportunistic and out of touch.

Zuckerberg’s comments during the demonstration didn’t help either. At one point, Zuckerberg said that “one of the things that’s really magical about VR is that you can get the feeling you’re really in a place.”

Facebook has been lending support to help people in Puerto Rico. The company is donating $1.5 million to recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, with the money to be split between the World Food Program and Net Hope, a consortium representing dozens of nonprofits and tech companies. Facebook also sent a “connectivity team” to Puerto Rico with emergency telecommunications support after the hurricane knocked out most of the island’s communications.

 

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