Facebook just changed its name to Meta. According to Mark Zuckerberg, the name change is meant to reflect the company’s investment in building the metaverse, where digital and physical worlds blend.
Zuckerberg and others see the metaverse as the next digital frontier. And to be clear, Facebook has invested in metaverse-related efforts for some time now.
But even the most casual observer has to admit that the name change, which is also meant to signal an attempt at a “new company brand,” is coming at a particularly opportune time.
So, how did Facebook end up in such hot water that it literally had to change its name in order to escape it?
Well, for one thing, it’s been a long time coming. Ever since the early 2000s formation of FaceMash, Zuckerberg’s earliest Facebook prototype, the social media platform has been dogged with various complaints and criticisms. Sure, there was a period of time when the promise of “making the world more open and connected” seemed like a noble and valid goal.
But for a number of years now, that idea has largely soured in the face of privacy, security, hate speech, and election tampering concerns. But despite the years of controversy and scandal, it’s the latest controversy that seems to be the nail in the coffin for the Facebook name.
A whistleblower and former Facebook product manager named Frances Haugen shared tens of thousands of documents with the Washington Post for a bombshell series dubbed the Facebook Files. And these documents were damning, to say the least.
The leaked internal documents demonstrated the extent to which Facebook knew it was causing harm and did nothing about it. Some of the biggest takeaways from the Facebook papers include that Facebook’s leaders ignored their own employee’s cries for reform, and Zuckerberg personally approved censoring anti-government posts in Vietnam, despite championing free speech in the US.
The documents also demonstrate that Zuckerberg’s public statements often did not correspond with the company’s internal findings, including on life or death issues, like hate speech. And so, with the internal documents as her evidence.