Facebook changes its name to Meta to distance itself from mounting scandals


Facebook is rebranding its parent company and will now go by the name Meta as Mark Zuckerberg tries to distance the social media behemoth from mounting scandals after leaked whistleblower documents claimed its platforms harmed users and stoked anger.

Zuckerberg made the announcement Thursday at the Facebook Connect augmented and virtual reality conference. During hte announcement, workers outside the company’s Silicon Valley headquarters pulled down a curtain bearing the company’s iconic ‘Like’ sign to reveal the new name and logo.

Meta refers to the ‘metaverse,’ Zuckerberg’s vision for the company’s transition into shared augmented reality, where uses work and play in virtual world environments.

The attempt to escape reality couldn’t come at a better time for the embattled brand, which will retain the Facebook name, but Facebook Inc. – the parent company that also owns Instagram and WhatsApp – will now go under the new title Meta. It will begin trading under MVRS on December 1.

The company is steeped deep in crisis after whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked internal documents and made bombshell claims that it ‘puts profits over people’ by knowingly harming teenagers with its content and stoking anger among users.

Haugen, a Facebook former product manager, left the company with tens of thousands of confidential documents that she copied in secret and released to roughly two dozen news outlets.

She testified before Congress on October 5 and British Parliament on Monday, presenting findings on the harm social media caused young users. One revealed that 13.5% of British teenagers and 6% of American teenagers experiencing suicidal thoughts said that they traced them to Instagram.

A message posted on an internal message board in March 2020 and revealed in Haugen’s documents said the app revealed that 32% of girls said Instagram made them feel worse about their bodies if they were already having insecurities.

Another recent claim against the company is that Instagram bombards women and girls who suffer from eating disorders with images and videos of exceedingly thin females and others afflicted with anorexia.

Internal documents revealed that Instagram’s algorithm curates options based on searches and preferences of users who express interest in dieting, weight loss, and thinness.

Instagram researchers this year conducted an experiment in which they typed in terms like #skinny and #thin are then offered to browse through other accounts that feature dangerously emaciated women and girls.

Another core finding in the leaked documents was that Facebook staff have reported for years that they are concerned about the company’s failure to police hate speech and that its algorithms flooded users with extremist content and conspiracy theories based on their political beliefs.

Internal messages from staff at the social media giant show that they blamed themselves for the January 6 Capitol riot after giving extremist content a platform on the site.

‘One of the darkest days in the history of democracy and self-governance. History will not judge us kindly,’ said one worker while another said: ‘We’ve been fueling this fire for a long time and we shouldn’t be surprised it’s now out of control.’

Haugen’s leaked documents also reveal that Facebook potentially mislead the US Securities and Exchange Commission by failing to disclose that its popularity among young users is slumping.

It is said to have failed to explain that many of its overall users are people with more than one account on its sites, meaning the actual number of users could be up to 11% fewer than its figures would suggest.

One trend shows that the time spent on Facebook by U.S. teenagers was down 16% from 2020 to 2021 and that young adults, between 18 and 29, were spending 5% less time on the app, according to reporting from Bloomberg.

Despite an avalanche of damaging whistleblower claims surfacing at the start of this week in what became known as the Facebook Papers, Meta on Monday reported soaring profits for the latest quarter.

The company said that its net income grew 17% in the July-September period to $9.19 billion, buoyed by strong advertising revenue. That’s up from profits of $7.85 billion a year earlier.

Meta stock rose more than 1% in after-hours trading Tuesday and rose by more than 3% on Thursday afternoon before dropping to about 1.5% by 5pm. Third quarter revenue grew 35% to $29.01 billion, exceeding analyst expectations.

The company’s name change includes a new logo depicting a blue infinity symbol and refers to the ‘metaverse’, its new focus to expand beyond its social media apps.

The term ‘metaverse’ can refer to digital spaces, which are made more lifelike by the use of virtual reality or augmented reality.

‘Our mission remains the same, it’s still about bringing people together,’ he said, adding, ‘Now we have a new North Star to help bring the metaverse to life.’

He added that the word means ‘beyond’ in Greek and symbolizes that there is ‘always more to build’ and ‘always a next chapter in the story.’

‘I believe the metaverse is the next chapter of the Internet and it’s the next chapter of our company too,’ he said, adding, ‘While most etch companies focus on how people could connect to technology, we focus on building technology so people could connect with each other.’

Zuckerberg has previously suggested the metaverse to be the future of the company, and has been talking up the metaverse since July.

The company has invested heavily in virtual reality and augmented reality, developing hardware such as its Oculus VR headsets and working on AR glasses and wristband technologies.

The buzzy word, first coined in a dystopian novel three decades earlier, is popular in Silicon Valley and has been referenced by other tech firms such as Microsoft.

In addition to its name change, Meta also announced an upcoming virtual reality headset called Project Cambria, a high-end product available to be released next year at a higher price point than the $299 Quest 2 headset, the company said in a blog post.

Meta also announced the code name of its first fully AR-capable smart glasses: Project Nazare. The glasses are ‘still a few years out,’ the company said in a blog post and Zuckerberg noted, ‘we still have a ways to go with Nazare, but we’re making good progress.’

The move to Meta is reminiscent of when Google abruptly renamed itself Alphabet in 2015, making Google a subsidiary and allowing it to become a technology conglomerate.

But the burning question on the minds of many is whether the name is enough to help Meta shake off it’s mounting public relations nightmares.

For the company’s independent oversight board, the answer is no. The group released a statement shortly after the announcement, saying, ‘Changing their name doesn’t change reality: Facebook is destroying our democracy and is the world’s leading peddler of disinformation and hate.’

It continued, ‘Their meaningless name change should not distract from the investigation, regulation and real, independent oversight needed to hold Facebook accountable.’

The company is attempting to ‘divert the conversation from their current problems onto the metaverse, which is exciting and futuristic,’ Anne Olderog, a senior partner at the consulting firm Vivaldi with 20 years of brand-strategy experience, told Business Insider.

She called it a ‘brilliant move’ because ‘truly, nobody understands’ the metaverse. However, she added that the public could ‘definitely see through things like that at this stage.’

‘Facebook is the world’s social media platform and they are being accused of creating something that is harmful to people and society,’ marketing consultant Laura Ries told the Associated Press.

She compared the name Meta to when BP rebranded to ‘Beyond Petroleum’ to escape criticism that it harmed the environment. ‘They can’t walk away from the social network with a new corporate name and talk of a future metaverse.’

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