he plan to change Facebook’s company name, first reported by The Verge (an American technology blog operated by Vox Media) on Tuesday, October 19th, comes at an odd time. The nearly $1 trillion conglomerate that owns Instagram and WhatsApp is embroiled in its biggest scandal in years, thanks to damning internal documents leaked by a whistleblower, as well as increased antitrust scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators. The name change would reflect Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg’s stated focus on being a part of a future “metaverse” (“Meta” means “beyond,” while “verse” is the suffix of the word “universe.”). The word is most commonly used to describe a future version of the internet that is made up of persistent, shared, 3D virtual environments that are linked into a perceived virtual universe; an online world where our avatars interact in astonishingly lifelike ways, according to The Verge.
There is a clear reason why Facebook may change its name, and it has nothing to do with the fact that the company may want to create a single umbrella brand for the three major platforms it owns – Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp – or that it wants to concentrate on the metaverse. It is because the public has lost faith in the social media platform. In recent years, “Facebook” has become associated with misinformation, privacy violations, the spread of hate, and autocracy, despite all of the family photos shared and funny videos consumed that the company has made possible.
However, a new name will not address the underlying issue: Facebook’s bankrupt reputation. Changing your name will not magically create a brand in which customers will put their trust.
The only way for Facebook to regain that trust is for its leadership to reform and for the actual issues that have caused so much alarm to be addressed. Many of the claims levelled against Facebook have been slammed, with some being labelled “misleading” and Facebook claiming to have cracked down on anti-vaccine content and misinformation. The corporation also claims that it welcomes regulation and that the benefits of its apps outweigh the risks.
Nonetheless, many misinformation researchers are concerned, and recent whistleblower Haugen claims that Facebook continues to prioritise money over people. Before helping to establish a future “metaverse” in which technology will play an even bigger part in our lives than it already does, the corporation must truly address the challenges it has already unleashed.
Independent research has long demonstrated that using social media has a negative impact on users’ mental health, particularly among teenagers, because it gives the (sometimes erroneous) idea that everyone else is living a better life.
According to Haugen, Facebook has been used to promote hatred around the world and incite deadly ethnic strife in Myanmar and Ethiopia. Furthermore, Zuckerberg has misled users and US lawmakers about how third-party firms gain access to personal data, posing serious privacy issues.
Of course, Facebook has a different perspective on the problem. After Haugen testified before Congress that the company has long been aware of these issues but has failed to address them meaningfully, a spokesperson told a journalist that the company “has long been aware of these issues and has failed to meaningfully address them. To combat the spread of misinformation and harmful content, we continue to make significant progress. It’s simply not correct to say that we support harmful content while doing nothing.”
But one thing this branding demonstrates is that, despite the enormous issues it faces, Facebook is not slowing down or retreating into a protective crouch. Its goals are still set on increasing its dominance and world-building, which is what its metaverse plans are attempting to do.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg has made no apologies in reaction to the whistleblower’s findings, instead of announcing major adjustments. He and his corporation have ignored the whistleblower’s claims and evidence, and are pressing ahead with a long-term plan to make the science-fiction concept of a metaverse into a commercial reality.
This is not a novel concept for Facebook. The metaverse, according to Zuckerberg, is the next phase of big technical progress, similar to the internet or mobile phones.
In March, the CEO told a journalist that in the next five years, Facebook will be a metaverse corporation, not a social network firm. 10,000 additional employees in the EU will work on the metaverse, according to the business. And, according to reports, Zuckerberg will rebrand the entire Facebook brand around it. As it builds out its sparkling new metaverse-related products, such as Oculus headsets and other AR/VR wearable gadgets, the name change could also help Facebook remove itself from the baggage associated with its primary offering.
Some Facebook opponents have suggested that a flashy new name serves as a convenient media diversion from the fundamental concerns at hand, like cigarette giant Philip Morris changing its name to Altria in 2001 or British Petroleum changing its name to BP Amoco in the late 1990s and then BP in 2001.
One of the major issues here is that the firm continues to deny that it has failed us. Founder Mark Zuckerberg, of course, has remained in charge of Facebook throughout all of this.
He obviously lacks the moral inclination or the ability to solve these issues. In any case, he has to leave. The corporation should make a new CEO announcement as soon as possible. Someone who is thoughtful and devoted to transparency about how social media is damaging our society, and who has the drive and competence to steer the platform in a completely different direction.
It is bad enough that the firm does not appear to understand the magnitude of the adjustments required. But what is even scarier is that, at the same time that these threats are becoming apparent, Facebook is attempting to extend our technological capabilities. Zuckerberg has stated that he is committed to assisting in the creation of a metaverse in which the physical and virtual worlds collide. In this world, we would increasingly operate as digital avatars (an image that you use to represent yourself on the internet).
In regions where Facebook is being used to create strife, it is already harming people’s privacy, health, elections, and lives. While a future metaverse could be a good thing if it is created right, allowing individuals equal access to opportunities regardless of geography, disability, or child care and other commitments, Facebook should not go any farther down this road until it fixes the problems it has already caused. Changing its name will not fix the problem.
Corporate name changes for a corporation of Facebook’s size typically necessitate long-term planning and strategizing, so it is unlikely that the company came up with the idea on the spur of the moment — though recent events could have sped up a decision that was already in the works. Long before the Haugen testimony, Facebook has been struggling with its brand’s attraction.
Right now, Facebook would be just as frightening to us as a society under any other name. And a new term that alluded to a bigger takeover of our life would be much more terrifying. This reality would not be altered by changing its name.
As the world waits to learn more about Facebook’s redesign, one critical element to keep an eye on is whether the corporation will undergo any structural changes. When Google restructured its business lines under the Alphabet banner in 2015, it was partly to allow co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin to focus on the company’s more experimental inventions rather than the search business. While Zuckerberg has given no indication that he intends to follow suit, observers will be watching to see if the rebranding results in any organisational or leadership changes.