Facebook changes name, but image is still tarnished photo The Korea Times
Social Media

Facebook changes name, but image is still tarnished

Oct 29, 2021, 11:41 AM
Rose De La Cruz

Rose De La Cruz


Hoping that a name change would relieve it of criticisms and rising pressure for regulation, Facebook on Thursday launched its new Meta with an infinity logo to signify its future beyond its present troubled state. The social media giant has been sieged with countless criticisms and suits before legislative and regulatory bodies around the world for its preference for profit over safety and social good. It had also been accused of racism, being a propaganda tool for a communist government and fostering civil disobedience and conflicts.

Facebook announced Thursday the change of its parent’s name to Meta (with a new logo of infinity) to represent a future beyond its troubled social network, said Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday. The social media giant has been sieged with countless criticisms and suits before legislative bodies over its preference for profit over social good. It had also found itself being accused of racism and fostering civil disobedience and conflicts.

The new handle comes as the social media giant tries to fend off one its worst crises yet and pivot to its ambitions for the "metaverse" virtual reality version of the internet that the tech giant sees as the future.

Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp will keep their names under the rebranding.

Activists, last October 27, branded Facebook as a propaganda tool for the authoritarian government of Vietnam after Zuckerberg signed off on a push from Hanoi to limit “anti-state” posts. Activists for years had been using this forum since independent media is banned from this communist nation. More than 53 million people use Facebook in Vietnam, accounting for over half the population.

"We've learned a lot from struggling with social issues and living under closed platforms, and now it is time to take everything that we've learned and help build the next chapter," Zuckerberg said during an annual developers’ conference.

Zuckerberg announced Thursday the name- change citing that “our mission remains the same—still about bringing people together, our apps and their brands, they’re not changing.”

Critics pounced last week on a report that leaked the rebranding plans, arguing the company was aiming to distract from recent scandals and controversy.

An activist group calling itself The Real Facebook Oversight Board has warned that major industries like oil and tobacco had rebranded to "deflect attention" from their problems.

Oversight and regulation

"Facebook thinks that a rebrand can help them change the subject," the group said last week, adding the "real issue" was the need for oversight and regulation.

Facebook has just announced plans to hire 10,000 people in the European Union to build the "metaverse," with Zuckerberg emerging as a leading promoter of the concept.

The social media giant has been battling a fresh crisis since former employee Frances Haugen leaked reams of internal studies showing executives knew of their sites' potential for harm, prompting a renewed US push for regulation.

Facebook has been hit by major crises previously, but the current view behind the curtain of the insular company has fueled a frenzy of scathing reports and scrutiny from US regulators.

"Good faith criticism helps us get better, but my view is that what we are seeing is a coordinated effort to selectively use leaked documents to paint a false picture of our company," Zuckerberg said in an earnings’ call on Monday.

Rehabilitating its reputation

The Washington Post last month suggested that Facebook's interest in the metaverse is "part of a broader push to rehabilitate the company's reputation with policymakers and reposition Facebook to shape the regulation of next-wave Internet technologies."

Google rebranded itself as Alphabet in a corporate reconfiguration in 2015, but the online search and ad powerhouse remains its defining unit despite other operations such as Waymo self-driving cars and Verily life sciences.

The report from website The Verge, which Facebook refused to confirm, said the embattled company was aiming to show its ambition to be more than a social media site.

A metaverse is an online world where people can game, work and communicate in a virtual environment, often using VR headsets. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been a leading voice on the concept.

The announcement comes as Facebook deals with the fallout of a damaging scandal and faces increased calls for regulation to curb its influence.

"The metaverse has the potential to help unlock access to new creative, social, and economic opportunities. And Europeans will be shaping it right from the start," Facebook wrote on his blog.

New jobs for EU

The new jobs being created over the next five years will include "highly specialized engineers. "Investing in the EU offered many advantages, including access to a large consumer market, first-class universities and high-quality talent, Facebook said.

Despite its history of buying up rivals, Facebook claims the metaverse "won't be built overnight by a single company" and has promised to collaborate. It recently invested $50m (£36.3m) in funding non-profit groups to help "build the metaverse responsibly." But it thinks the true metaverse idea will take another 10 to 15 years.

Some critics say this latest announcement is designed to re-establish the company's reputation and divert attention, after a series of damaging scandals in recent months that included revelations from whistleblower, Frances Haugen, formerly product manager on the civic integrity team of Facebook.

Internal research by Facebook found that Instagram, which it owns, was affecting the mental health of teenagers. But Facebook did not share its findings when they suggested that the platform was a "toxic" place for many youngsters.

Frances Haugen maintained that "If Facebook change the algorithm to be safer... they'll make less money"

All time high

Scrutiny of the social network, and outrage over some of its activities, are arguably at an all-time high after Haugen turned over thousands of documents to Congress, federal financial regulators and the media. They revealed how much the company has known about the dangerous effects of its products, even as it has sought to expand its offerings and move into new markets.

Some critics claimed that the new name and project are part of a crisis response strategy aimed at distracting lawmakers, investors and the public. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), chair of the Senate Commerce consumer protection panel that is leading an investigation into Facebook and heard from Haugen said the name change is part of Facebook’s broader battle against regulation.

Facebook is changing its name “because their reaction here is all about cosmetics, all about superficial changes designed to confuse and distract — just as they are continuing their lobbying against” children’s online safety protections, Blumenthal said on Wednesday at a briefing on Capitol Hill.

“And it will continue: changing names, emblems, insignias, logos — it's all about the cosmetics for them because they want to continue that business model that makes them money."

Focusing on the future

Zuckerberg said: “there are important issues to work on in the present — there always will be — so for many people, I’m just not sure there will ever be a good time to focus on the future.” He also emphasized that safety, privacy and ethics would be part of the development of the metaverse.”

In addition, the years it will take for the virtual-reality and augmented-reality technology to take shape will offer plenty of time for regulators and policymakers to address implications for privacy and other concerns, said Nick Clegg, the company's vice president of global affairs and communications.

Last July, President Joe Biden walked back some of his criticism of Facebook saying he meant to accuse a dozen users, but not the social media platform itself, of spreading deadly lies about Covid vaccines. “Facebook isn’t killing people,” Biden said.

Biden added that he hopes Facebook will do more to fight “the outrageous misinformation” about coronavirus vaccines being spread on its platform “instead of taking it personally that somehow I’m saying Facebook is killing people.”

“The facts show that Facebook is helping save lives,” the spokesperson added.

Facebook fires back at Biden over vaccine misinformation

The same day, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy declared that Covid misinformation poses an urgent public health threat. He specifically called out social media companies’ product features and algorithms that can drag people “deeper and deeper into a well of misinformation.”

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki and Surgeon General Dr. Vive...

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room 1:05 P.M. EDT MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. We have another special guest today. D...

On October 24, a case was filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission by an unnamed whistleblower accusing Facebook of “putting profits before stopping problematic content,” just weeks after another whistleblower stoked the firm’s latest crisis with similar claims.

Facebook has faced a storm of criticism over the past month after former employee Frances Haugen leaked internal studies showing the company knew of potential harm stoked by its sites, prompting US lawmakers to renew a push for regulation.


In the SEC complaint, the new whistleblower recounts alleged statements from 2017, when the company was deciding how to handle the controversy related to Russia's interference in the 2016 US presidential election.

The second whistleblower signed the complaint on October 13, a week after Haugen's scathing testimony before a Senate panel, according to Washington Post.

The Washington Post reported the new whistleblowers SEC filing claims the social media giant's managers routinely undermined efforts to combat misinformation and other problematic content for fear of angering then US President Donald Trump or for turning off the users who are key to profits.

On October 13, Facebook was ordered to preserve the documents presented by Haugen on its impact on children and teens under 18. Commerce Committee chair Maria Cantwell said: "The testimony ... raises significant concerns about whether Facebook has misled the public, federal regulators, and this committee. This committee will continue its oversight and work to pursue legislation to protect consumers’ privacy, improve data security, and strengthen federal enforcement to address the digital harms that are the subject of these hearings."

She asked Facebook to preserve and retain internal Facebook research referenced by Haugen and Facebook’s evaluation of the research; ranking or composition systems; experiments or recommendations to change those ranking systems and the impact of Facebook’s platforms on children and teenagers under the age of 18, said a Reuters report.

Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said in response the company has "absolutely no commercial incentive, no moral incentive, no company-wide incentive to do anything other than to try to give the maximum number of people as much of a positive experience as possible on Facebook."


Cantwell's letter cited "the potential danger that social media platforms pose for spreading divisive content was demonstrated, with horrifying consequences, by the role the Facebook platform played in fomenting ethnic violence against the Rohingya."

She added "the role of Facebook’s platform in the Rohingya tragedy illustrates the horrible consequences that failing to effectively limit the spread of divisive content on social media platforms can have in inflicting public harm."

In September, a US judge ordered Facebook to release records of accounts connected to anti-Rohingya violence in Myanmar that the social media giant had shut down, rejecting its argument about protecting privacy as "rich with irony."

Haugen, a data scientist from Iowa, called for transparency about how Facebook entices users to keep scrolling, creating ample opportunity for advertisers to reach them. Haugen, a former product manager on Facebook's civic misinformation team, left the nearly $1 trillion company with tens of thousands of confidential documents.

In an interview Sunday at CBS “60 Minutes” show Haugen said she has worked for companies including Google and Pinterest but that Facebook was “substantially worse” than anything she had seen before.

"The version of Facebook that exists today is tearing our societies apart and causing ethnic violence around the world," she said.

Stronger oversight

US Senator Richard Blumenthal responded to the interview ahead of Haugen's appearance to testify in Congress next week, saying in a statement: "Facebook's actions make clear that we cannot trust it to police itself. We must consider stronger oversight."

The company's own research shows that it is "easier to inspire people to anger than it is to other emotions," Haugen said. Less time, less money on safe algorithms.

During the 2020 US presidential election, she said, the company realized the danger that such content presented and built safety systems to reduce it.

But "as soon as the election was over they turn them back off, or they change the settings back to what they were before, to prioritize growth over safety, and that really feels like a betrayal of democracy to me," she said.

"No one at Facebook is malevolent," she said, adding that co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg did not set out to make a "hateful" platform. But, Haugen said, the incentives are "misaligned."

Facebook's vice president of policy and global affairs Nick Clegg vehemently pushed back at the assertion its platforms are "toxic" for teens, days after a tense congressional hearing in which US lawmakers grilled the company over its impact on the mental health of young users.

Facing pressure, the company had previously announced it would suspend but not abandon the development of a version of Instagram meant for users younger than 13.

Tags: #Facebook, #Metaplusinfinitylogo, #Zuckerberg, #suitsandcriticisms, #technology

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