Facebook changed its parent company name to “Meta” on Thursday as the tech giant tries to move past being a scandal-plagued social network to its virtual reality vision for the future.
The new handle comes as the company battles to fend off one of its worst crises yet and pivot to its ambitions for the “metaverse,” which would blur the lines between the physical world and the digital one.
“We’ve learned a lot from struggling with social issues and living under closed platforms, and now it is time to take everything that we’ve learned and help build the next chapter,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said during an annual developers conference.
The company’s critics pounced on the rebranding, with an activist group calling itself The Real Facebook Oversight Board saying the platform is harming democracy while spreading disinformation and hate.
The social media giant has been battling one of its most serious crises ever since former employee Frances Haugen leaked reams of internal studies showing executives knew of their sites’ potential for harm, prompting a renewed US push for regulation.
Reports from a consortium of US news outlets have used those documents to produce a deluge of damning stories, including blaming Zuckerberg for his platform bending to state censors and highlighting how the site has stoked anger in the name of keeping users engaged.
The company told AFP it issued on Tuesday to employees a “legal hold,” which is an instruction to preserve documents and communications because it faces inquiries from authorities.
However Zuckerberg, in a more than one-hour streamed message that showed him exploring virtual reality worlds, said the vision is the future.
The company noted during Zuckerberg’s presentation “a dozen major technological breakthroughs to get to the next generation metaverse.”
The metaverse is, in fact, the stuff of science-fiction: the term was coined by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel “Snow Crash,” in which people don virtual reality headsets to interact inside a game-like digital world.
“Good faith criticism helps us get better, but my view is that what we are seeing is a coordinated effort to selectively use leaked documents to paint a false picture of our company,” Zuckerberg said in an earnings call on Monday.