Facebook rebrands amid criticism

Facebook pivots to the “metaverse” after the release of the Facebook Papers

By Ivy Lewis and Sophie Boulter, Staff Writer and World News Editor

The Facebook company is changing its name to “Meta” following the release of the Facebook Papers. 

The “metaverse” is a virtual world community in which individuals can work, eat and play. This community combines virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to create an immersive digital universe.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced these changes during Facebook Connect, a VR and AR conference.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about our identity as we begin this next chapter. Facebook is one of the most used products in the history of the world,” Zuckerberg said at the conference.

“I used to study classics, and the word ‘meta’ comes from the Greek word meaning ‘beyond.’ For me, it symbolizes that there is always more to build, and there is always a next chapter to the story,” he said.

The company will also change the sign in front of its California headquarters from a blue “thumbs-up” to a blue infinity sign.

“It is time for us to adopt a new company brand… we have a new North Star to help bring the metaverse to life, and we have a new name that reflects the full breadth of what we do,” Zuckerberg said.

The branding change comes on the heels of the release of the Facebook Papers, a cache of classified documents detailing the inner workings of the company, leaked by former product manager Frances Haugen. 

Photo courtesy of commons.wikimedia.com
Facebook defends its rebranding choice as a necessary pivot to new technologies, including VR and AR. Critics accuse Facebook of using the rebrand as a way to distract from criticism, such as the Facebook Paper allegations.

The leaked documents suggest that company officials disregarded misinformation and biased content on the platform, particularly following the 2016 presidential election. The papers also allege that extremist content was permitted from human trafficking groups and White supremacist organizations.

In her testimony, Haugen stated that she left her position as product manager when she determined the company was harming vulnerable communities through inaction and permissive policies.

“I did what I thought was necessary to save the lives of people, especially in the global South, who I think are being endangered by Facebook’s prioritization of profits over people,” Haugen stated in an interview with the Guardian.

Haugen and other top officials also testified before Congress, saying that the company abets government corruption and violence through its services. 

They noted the company has inconsistent safety controls, which can be used by hate groups and non-governmental organizations seeking to promote illegal content.

Critics allege that Facebook officials were aware that armed groups in Ethiopia were communicating with and recruiting members via the platform, but decided not to remove them.

Zuckerberg denied the allegations detailed in the Facebook Papers and that Facebook is hiding information from investors and the public.

“If we wanted to hide our results, why would we have established an industry-leading standard for transparency and reporting on what we’re doing?” Zuckerberg asked.

Critics of Facebook argue that the rebranding and name change do not detract from the harm the company has caused.

“Changing their name doesn’t change reality: Facebook is destroying our democracy and is the world’s leading peddler of disinformation and hate,” The Real Facebook Oversight Board, a watchdog organization dedicated to monitoring the company’s actions, said. 

“Their meaningless name change should not distract from the investigation, regulation and real, independent oversight needed to hold Facebook accountable.”

The investigation into the Facebook Papers is expected to continue as Congress reviews the leaked documents.