Besieged by troublesome headlines, Facebook has undergone a brand refresh, changing its corporate name to Meta.
CEO Mark Zuckerburg announced the change late Thursday, saying “it’s time to adopt a new brand that encompasses everything we do.” Besides the Facebook social media platform, the company owns Instagram and WhatsApp.
While that may be a valid reason -- after all, Google changed its corporate name to Alphabet -- the Facebook brand has been an object of criticism since 2017. At that time, it revealed that users' personal data had been used in an unauthorized way by a political marketing firm.
Since then, the criticism has only become more intense from both the political left and the right. Democrats have accused the company of allowing the distribution of misinformation, and Republicans have claimed that the platform censors conservative viewpoints.
Leaked internal research
Last month, a former employee leaked internal documents showing, among other things, that Facebook executives were aware that the social pressures created by Instagram were having a harmful effect on teenage girls.
Mike Davis, founder and president of the Internet Accountability Project and a longtime Facebook critic, said the name change doesn’t really change anything.
“Facebook is following in the footsteps of Big Tobacco after the industry was exposed for its toxic and deadly impact on society,” he said. “Philip Morris got caught preying on kids, so they became Altria. Facebook got caught preying on kids, so they became Meta. But consumers and legislators should make no mistake: this is the same company that lies to its users, Congress and government regulators.”
Davis makes clear that he thinks Facebook, and many other “Big Tech” companies, should be broken up into smaller firms.
For its part, Facebook -- now Meta -- is presenting the name change as a fundamental realignment of its business, casting itself as a “social technology company” that will bring together its apps and technology under a single brand
The name is taken from the word “metaverse,” which is a virtual reality environment where users can interact with others in a purely digital space.
“The metaverse will feel like a hybrid of today’s online social experiences, sometimes expanded into three dimensions or projected into the physical world,” the company said in a release.