Facebook Becomes 'Meta': Banal, or Terrifying?
Surprise: it's both!
Mark Zuckerberg announced last night that Facebook Inc., the parent company of Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp et al, will be renamed ‘Meta’.
It’s being called a ‘major rebrand’, and God knows they need one after years of teflon scandal that have left us (powerlessly) resenting them.
Zuckerberg said the company plans to lead “the next phase of the internet” beyond simply ruling social media, to incorporate AI, virtual and augmented reality; an idea he’s calling: the ‘metaverse’.
Facebook has for years made headlines for its questionable business practices. But in recent weeks it has been embroiled in its most transparent scandal after a leak of internal research, discussion, and presentation documents by former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen, resulting in ongoing news stories about the executive mechanics of the world’s fifth-highest-valued company.
Haugen testified that she repeatedly saw the company prioritise its profits over user safety, highlighting, in particular, the understaffing of safety teams and declining to take action on the dangers for children.
And stories from the leak continue: as chat about WTF a ‘metaverse’ is ping pongs across the web today, the Washington Post has reported that during the pandemic Facebook withheld important information from the government about vaccine misinformation.
What are the implications of this rebrand? It is unlikely to distract from the company’s continued scandal but, in effect, it’s a signal that the company feels it’s irrelevant anyway.
When children are suffering from increasing mental health issues, and taking their own lives after becoming addicted to, primarily, Meta’s platforms, making a big announcement that your business plan is to “build a more immersive internet” is about as tone-deaf as it’s possible to be.
What the rebrand signifies is the reality-detaching size of the company’s power.
Meta Platforms, Inc. knows their situation is bad optically, but has no intention of changing, only expanding - at their current level of power, they have no need to change.
Earlier this year, anti-trust lawsuits were raised around the world to pursue the break up of Facebook Inc. Haugen herself says: “Facebook is full of kind, conscientious, well-meaning people”, among whom the guilt is apportioned down to a sliver. Those with the most power remain untouchable, at least so far.
According to the BBC, “Hype about digital worlds and augmented reality pops up every few years, but usually dies away.” If any company has the power to douse the world in virtual and augmented AI gravy, it’s our good friends at Meta.
Meta means ‘going beyond’, ‘existing above’, and ‘self-referential’. This distraction is simply a self-referral, that what Facebook is “achieving” “on our behalf” is more important than anything else. It’s just more of the same patriarchal corporate guff. It’s actually… pretty banal. Which doesn’t make it any less terrifying.
With Zuckerberg’s announcement that he is planning to hire 10,000 people across Europe to develop the "metaverse", i.e. further dominate the internet and our data, he’s simply continuing his frat-party self-hype-man act (how…meta 😏), pretending everyone’s edgy, fixed smiles are down to their Having A Good Time, rather than their fear of the drunk guy, trashing the place, whose Dad’s lawyer will get him out of whatever results.
While Zuckerberg continues on his path to try and out-evil Bezos, you can refuse to be distracted. If you’re going to talk about Meta today, here’s a reminder of all the relevant things you could be discussing:
And much, much more to come from NEW: Metaverse, Inc.!
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