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Into the Meta-verse: Facebook’s greatest problem remains

Into the Meta-verse: Facebook’s greatest problem remains

Into the Meta-verse: Facebook’s greatest problem remains
November 11
14:00 2021

Let me give you a scenario. You have just committed a series of federal crimes that include the violation of privacy laws and harboring insurrectionists who planned the Jan. 6 Capitol riots. What plan would you come up with to evade controversy and potential regulation? If you’re the founder and CEO of Facebook, a change of branding is apparently in order. Much to the surprise of social media users and the world, Mark Zuckerberg announced in an Oct. 28 Connect conference that Facebook was doing exactly that.

Though the change might sound like as much of a curveball to the public as the time Snoop Dogg changed his name to Snoop Lion, this is a reset button Zuckerberg pressed to save his global brand from further public scrutiny. However, is this name change superficial or is it an attempt to crack down on serious issues it has faced in the past?

In 2019, the company was fined $5 billion by federal authorities after the platform was found to have failed to protect millions of users’ personal data from being breached by third-party developers. Facebook also agreed to provide notices to users on how they were going to use facial recognition technology and could not use this technology outside terms users agreed to without their consent.

Despite past controversies, Zuckerberg denied that the recent leaks had any influence on his decision to reinvent the brand. In an interview with The Verge, he said he felt social media was going in the way of the metaverse in the future and thought it was time to make a change earlier this year.

The metaverse concept is inspired by the 1992 dystopian novel “Snow Crash,” which features civilization fleeing from the collapse of the real world into a virtual reality. Though its origin is disturbing, Zuckerberg counters that the metaverse is a utopian idea. Its users will be able to exist as full-bodied avatars or a hologram of themselves in a virtual space to interact with family, friends and strangers. 

Admittedly, Zuckerberg’s ideas are ambitious and creative even though they are not entirely original. Virtual reality is the new frontier of exploration after space. We might be in the infancy stage of VR now, but its advancements are likely within reach in the near future. Regardless of what he says, other social media outlets likely aren’t going to take Zuckerberg’s statement as anything more than a corporate announcement.

Meta is going to face similar issues that Facebook underwent. There could be a way around laws that potentially violate Meta use in the future without any way of knowing what they are right now. Facebook failed to crack down on domestic terrorists who used their platform to plan out a political coupe. Who is to say that hate groups can’t plan similar attacks in the future?

This isn’t me having a tinfoil hat mentality — former Facebook data scientist Frances Haugen testified before a Senate subcommittee on Capitol Hill that Facebook was sowing division in their platform to maximize their profits. The outlet’s lack of restrictions towards hate speech is not just another scandal — it had a hand in the loss of life on Jan. 6.

How is Zuckerberg planning to patch up privacy issues and hate speech in the future? It’s a problem that isn’t easily solvable and is practically guaranteed to remain, regardless of the brand name. Other issues such as cyberbullying remain on all social media platforms, from dating apps to Snapchat stories. 

Zuckerberg accused Haugen of twisting the narrative to make it seem like Facebook doesn’t care. Her claims, however, were rooted in history. The 2019 lawsuit occurred after a decade of users voicing their concerns on the matter. Zuckerberg had to be taken to court to take his job more seriously. Even then, his crackdown has been a bust. 

Zuckerberg must get more serious about solving issues related to hate speech, privacy invasion and cyberbullying. Creating an entirely different entity doesn’t wave away the problems of the past. No platform is free of criticism, but social media tech giants have an obligation to protect their users as much as possible and minimalize scandal. 

We aren’t even sure of what problems may arise from Metaverse in the future, but Zuckerberg can’t make up a reality big enough to get rid of the problems Facebook created. 

Featured Illustration by Miranda Thomas

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Adrian Maldonado

Adrian Maldonado

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