October 20, 2021 by Ethics in Tech board member Brett Wilkins for Common Dreams
Digital rights advocates on Wednesday shrugged off reports that Facebook is planning to change its name by accusing the company of attempting to divert attention from its failure to address problems plaguing the platform and calling for meaningful regulation of—and in some cases, breaking up—the social media giant.
According to The Verge, Facebook will be rebranded next week “to reflect its focus on building the metaverse,” a shared digital environment enhanced by virtual and augmented reality. The new name remains a secret.
Earlier this year, Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg told The Verge that the metaverse “is going to be a big focus, and I think that this is just going to be a big part of the next chapter for the way that the internet evolves after the mobile internet.”
Critics were quick to deride the potential name change, which comes on the heels of whistleblower testimony accusingthe company of threatening children and democracy, as well as a “How to Stop Facebook” campaign launched last week by a coalition of over 40 advocacy groups.
“Just to be clear Facebook, our problem with you is not your name,” tweeted the progressive political action committee MeidasTouch.
In a statement, the Real Facebook Oversight Board (RFOB) said, “Like Big Tobacco and Big Oil rebranded to deflect attention for their crimes, Facebook thinks that a rebrand can help them change the subject.”
Some observers responded to the news of the possible rebrand with tongue-in-cheek tweets:
Others wondered how a name change would help reduce the dissemination of misinformation and hate speech on Facebook.
“When are you going to profiting off hate?” tweeted the NAACP. “Our advice: Keep the name, change the policy!”
“It’s easy to dismiss this as a joke or think Nick Clegg has snapped a tether,” RFOB said, referring to the company’s vice president for global affairs and communications, “but this is a sign Facebook will go to any length to distract from their failure to keep hate off of their platforms.”
“Whatever they call themselves, the issue remains,” the group added. “Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp, under any parent brand or name, need real and independent regulation and oversight now.”
Still others renewed calls for more aggressive measures against the social media giant.
“Now would be a great time to break up Facebook,” tweeted the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen.
(Photo: Anthony Quintano/Flickr/cc)