"My goal here was to show how VR can raise awareness and help us see what's happening in different parts of the world," Mark Zuckerberg said

October 11, 2017 11:07 AM

Mark Zuckerberg has apologized after virtually visiting hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico to promote a new feature on Facebook.

The Facebook founder and Rachel Franklin, the company’s head of social V.R., demonstrated the social media site’s new Facebook Spaces app, which lets users explore real destinations as avatar characters on Monday. From their offices in Menlo Park, California, the two virtually toured the Caribbean island, which was recently devastated by Hurricane Maria.

“One of the things that’s really magical about VR is you can get the feeling you’re really in a place,” said Zuckerberg as his avatar appeared with background scenes of flooding and destruction, describing the experience as “magical.”

“Rachel and I aren’t even in the same building in the physical world, but it feels like we’re in the same place and can make eye contact,” he added before he and Franklin’s avatars high-fived.

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They also made a virtual journey to the moon, where Franklin marveled at the view of the Milky Way.

The backlash on social media and beyond was immediatel, with critics calling the stunt “tone-deaf” and “the height of tastelessness.”

“It’s a little weird that you are using devastation to talk about how cool VR is,” commented one user.

Another added, “Is this a joke? The Puerto Ricans are suffering and you are using our tragedy for this?? Heartless billionaire.”

Zuckerberg commented on the video to apologize Tuesday.

“One of the most powerful features of VR is empathy,” he said. “My goal here was to show how VR can raise awareness and help us see what’s happening in different parts of the world. I also wanted to share the news of our partnership with the Red Cross to help with the recovery. Reading some of the comments, I realize this wasn’t clear, and I’m sorry to anyone this offended.”

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