by Anna Augart-Welwood
November 23, 2021
Facebook is a popular social media platform that has grown and succeeded for almost two decades. The company recently initiated a rebranding and announced the company’s new name, Meta. The CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, wants to add an element of augmented reality to his company. People will be able to do things such as playing games, seeing concerts, and attending work meetings, all through the use of virtual reality.
During Facebook Connect, the company’s virtual event, Zuckerberg said, “It is time for us to adopt a new company brand to encompass everything we do.” It’s possible, however, that Zuckerberg is employing a tactic many other business leaders use: altering the external appearance of a company to reposition their values in the eyes of users. Some believe that Zuckerberg initiated the rebranding of Facebook to distract people from the recent criticism of the platform; he introduced Meta without any significant change to the company. Another possible reason for the rebranding is that Facebook’s main demographic includes older people, and the platform is losing younger users to more popular apps, such as TikTok. If Facebook’s “metaverse” becomes popular among younger generations, it could fix their impending financial crisis from loss of users. This metaverse (a term originally coined by cyberpunk author Neal Stephenson in 1992) could also fix another problem currently facing the company, namely that Facebook’s mobile apps are dependent on Apple and Google, which limits the company’s ability to collect data about the mobile activity of its users. The metaverse could allow the company to obtain data from users who spend more time on Facebook-owned platforms.
Frances Haugen, a former data scientist at Facebook, has spoken out about the unethical practices of the company. She studied how Facebook’s algorithm contributed to the spread of misinformation and told Congress that Facebook maximizes its growth instead of implementing safeguards on its platforms. Before leaving the company, Haugen copied thousands of pages of confidential information and published and shared them with lawmakers. One of the studies she leaked found that 13.5% of teenage girls from the United Kingdom experienced more frequent suicidal thoughts after using Instagram. Another study showed that 17% of teenage girls said their eating disorders got worse after using the platform, and about 32% of teenage girls reported feeling worse about their bodies after using Instagram. Haugen told Congress, “During my time at Facebook, I came to realize a devastating truth: almost no one outside of Facebook knows what happens inside Facebook. The company intentionally hides vital information from the public, from the US government, and from governments around the world.” Haugen’s legal team stated that Facebook executives misrepresented information about the capacity of Facebook and Instagram to cause harm to its uninformed users. Moreover, Haugen’s attorneys accused Facebook of violating US security laws by lying to investors. They have also filed eight complaints with the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding Facebook’s public statements on what they knew about how the organizers of the January 6 Capitol riot used their platform.
Considering that BUA students are teenagers and many use Instagram, we should be careful, informed, and educated about the types of content we allow to impact us. BUA students are among the age groups most affected by toxic content on Instagram, and this issue could continue to prevail if Zuckerberg’s metaverse distracts people enough from their harmful practices. The rebranding may be merely an attempt to shift the objective of the company and a method of escape from the exposure of their dark secrets and possible financial demise.
Allyn, Bobby. “Here are 4 key points from the Facebook whistleblower’s testimony on Capitol Hill.” NPR, October 5, 2021.
Lee Yohn, Denise. “Facebook’s Rebrand Has a Fundamental Problem.” Harvard Business Review, November 2, 2021.
Roose, Kevin. “The Metaverse is Mark Zuckerberg’s Escape Hatch.” The New York Times, October 29, 2021.