It’s no news that the Facebook Inc brand has rebranded and adopted a new name. We just recently reported that the social networking company that houses the Facebook.com mobile site and app, the WhatsApp messaging app, and the pictures and videos app, Instagram had officially changed the whole brand identity to ‘Meta’.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg, had while speaking at Facebook’s streamed virtual and augmented reality conference, posited that the new name would go a long way to showcase its ambitions to build the metaverse, a growing ambition beyond social media services which it has conquered. “Right now, our brand is so tightly linked to one product that it can’t possibly represent everything that we’re doing today, let alone in the future,” , he said.
The official reason given for the name change is a showcase of the social media giant’s move to be at the forefront of building the metaverse, but there are increasing suspicions from various schools of thought on the underlying motives of the name change.
A distraction or cover-up from it litany of controversies seem to be the loudest ‘inclinated’ suspicion.
The platform that started in a dorm room with a young Harvard student, Mark Zuckerberg and his roommates, Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes has grown to be arguably the biggest social media network platform in the world. Such is the level of influence that the CEO, Mark Zuckerberg became the 8th richest man in the world.
Other popular social media apps, Instagram and WhatsApp were purchased and added to its strings of services under the Facebook Inc Company, with many social pundits seeing the 2016 purchase of WhatsApp as a monopolistic control of the social media, leaving other rival apps like Telegram and even Imo grasping for breadth.
The Facebook Inc grew in leaps and bounds and became a dominant force on the web space that has the world at its mercy but it came with its litany of scandals and issues.
The brand which as at 2020 had 2.8 billion monthly active users, while ranking on the number 7 in global internet usage has further evolved that when it had a technical glitch recently that affected al its shared infrastructure apps ( Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram), it was akin to a rapture. Such is the effect the tech giant has on the world web space.
With these accomplishments, the California based company has been enmeshed in many controversies that has many times called into question the morality and in instances the legality of its actions and inactions.
From being criticized for electricity usage, avoidance of taxes, censorship, its involvement in the U.S Prism surveillance program, the company has courted controversies and has continued to be in the eye of the storm.
Facebook was in 2010 accused of allowing the United States National Security Agency (NSA) to use publicly posted profile information of users on Facebook for purposes that violates user privacy on the site. This drew the ere of many social media users who felt their data is not safe and can be used for nefarious intentions.
The following year, the Zuckerberg’s franchise on November 29, 2011 had to make do with settling and in effect paying for the charges brought upon it by the Federal Trade Commission, where the FTC accused Facebook of deceiving consumers by not keeping privacy promises.
2 years after, a study published by High Tech Bridge in August 2013 indicated that links included in the Facebook messaging services messages were being illegally accessed by Facebook, prompting some of its users to file a lawsuit against the company alleging a violation of their privacy.
Facebook announced June 2018 that a bug on their site had resulted in over 14 million of its users having their default sharing setting for all new posts automatically set to public, an indication that users did not have to decide which post has to be limited to the enclosed friends or the public.
The privacy intrusion issues caused a global outrage in 2019 as on April 4, the records of half a billion Facebook users containing users friends, likes, groups, checked-in-locations, names, passwords and email addresses of subscribers were discovered to have been exposed on Amazon cloud servers.
In September that year, the mobile phone numbers of at least 200 million Facebook users, including 133 million U.S users, 18 million UK users and 50 million users from Vietnam were discovered to have been exposed on an open online database.
The Cambridge Analytical scandal was a turning point scandal in the world’s perception of Facebook: Millions of Facebook users had their personal data collected without consent by consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica to be used for political purposes. In a revelation in 2018 by a former Analytica employee known as Christopher Wylie, 87 million Facebook profiles were harvested through an app on Facebook Open Graph platform with Cambridge Analytica using the data to aid the 2016 Presidential campaigns of Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.
Accusations rented the air that the Customer Global Science Research department of Facebook sold the over 87 million users information on the site to the firm led by Alexander Nix with allegation that Facebook’s API gave access for data collection from users friends without their knowledge.
Facebook obviously caught in the web had to own up to the scandal and on March 25 2018 had to apologize for a breach of trust.
In an apology published in major UK and United States newspapers, Facebook wrote:
“You may have heard about a quiz app built by a university researcher that leaked Facebook data of millions of people in 2014. This was a breach of trust, and I’m sorry we didn’t do more at the time. We’re now taking steps to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
We’ve already stopped apps like this from getting so much information. Now we’re limiting the data apps get when you sign in using Facebook.
We’re also investigating every single app that had access to large amounts of data before we fixed this. We expect there are others. And when we find them, we will ban them and tell everyone affected.
Finally, we’ll remind you which apps you’ve given access to your information – so you can shut off the ones you don’t want anymore.
Thank you for believing in this community. I promise to do better for you”
The furore the issue generated led the U.S authorities led Federal Trade Commission beginning an investigation into the matter with an obviously jolted Facebook admitting it could face a fine of up to $5 billion as a result of the probe.
There have been other issues of privacy intrusions racial abuse, political manipulations, anti-religious stance and other accusations levelled against the Facebook Inc platform after that with a public apology having to suffice before the media could let go.
Flashforward to the latter days, Frances Haugen, a former employee of the platform, first as a whistleblower and after unveiling herself had accused the Facebook enterprise of instigating the infamous Capitol riot, while also favouring profit over money.
Haugen claimed that whenever there is an option to be chosen between the public good and interests that benefitted the social media giant, Facebook would rather choose its own interests. She had earlier anonymously reported that Facebook’s own research has shown how it magnifies hate and misinformation.
She also filed at least eight complaints with U.S. securities regulators asserting that Facebook has violated the law by withholding information about the risks posed by its social network, according to “60 Minutes.”
“No one at Facebook is malevolent,” Haugen said during the interview. “But the incentives are misaligned, right? Like, Facebook makes more money when you consume more content. People enjoy engaging with things that elicit an emotional reaction. And the more anger that they get exposed to, the more they interact and the more they consume”.
While testifying before the US Congress, she claimed Facebook has continually misled the public and advised senate committee on the need to create laid down guidelines. According to Wall Street Journal, her testimony describes how the company’s rules favor elites; how its algorithms foster discord; and how drug cartels and human traffickers use its services openly. Haugen said “The Company’s leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer but won’t make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits before people,” she added. “Congressional action is needed.”
Just weeks after the Haugen’s testimony, another anonymous whistleblower under oath had informed the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) about Facebook’s endless disregard for worries surrounding the spread of hate speech, together with rolling out false information out of phobia for jeopardized monetary growth.
The individual further added in the testimony that a Facebook communications official known as Tucker Bunds, perceived hate speech as a “flash in the pan” and went further to say that even though “some legislation will get pissy,” Facebook is “printing money in the basement”.
Zuckerberg in his response to the recent allegations few days ago fired back at the accusers, while appearing to blame the media for constant and negative reportage against his company.
While refuting the narrative that the company has been prioritising profit over its users, the Facebook CEO during Facebook’s third quarter earnings claimed the accusations against his company with a wave of bad press was led by “a coordinated effort to selectively use leaked documents to paint a false picture of our company.”
“If social media is not the main driver of these issues, then it probably can’t fix them by itself either,” he said during the call.
“I’ve repeatedly called for regulation to provide clarity because I don’t think companies should be making so many of these decisions ourselves,” he added.
Then coincidentally, a name change was announced shortly after, with many users connecting the dots and inferring that the ‘metaverse building intention’ may not be the only motive but a deflection from the bad press Zuckerberg has always complained of.
If we are to tow the line of that argument, will the bad press halt with the name change?
The subsequent events of the next days and weeks will effectively answer that.