Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, has faced a wave of criticism and scrutiny from regulators, lawmakers, activists and users over its decision to change its corporate name and identity. The rebranding, announced by CEO Mark Zuckerberg on October 28, 2021, is part of the company’s vision to build and dominate the metaverse, a virtual world where people can interact in immersive and social ways.
What is the metaverse and why does Meta want to create it?
The metaverse is a term that describes a digital environment that combines elements of virtual reality, augmented reality, gaming, social media and e-commerce. It is supposed to offer users a more engaging and realistic experience than the current internet, where they can create, explore, work, play and connect with others in various ways.
Meta, which owns popular platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Oculus, has been investing heavily in developing the technology and infrastructure for the metaverse. The company believes that the metaverse will be the next frontier of innovation and growth for its business, as well as a way to enhance its social mission.
Zuckerberg said that the new name reflects the company’s focus on building the metaverse and that it would better encompass its diverse products and services. He also said that Meta would be more than just a social media company, but a social technology company that empowers people to express themselves and connect with others.
What are the challenges and risks of building the metaverse?
However, Meta’s rebranding and ambitions have been met with skepticism and opposition from various stakeholders who question the company’s motives, capabilities and responsibilities in creating the metaverse. Some of the challenges and risks that Meta faces include:
- Regulatory hurdles: Meta’s plans to build the metaverse could face regulatory scrutiny and intervention from governments around the world who are concerned about the potential impact of the metaverse on competition, privacy, security, consumer protection, content moderation, taxation and digital sovereignty. For example, the European Commission has said that it would monitor Meta’s activities in the metaverse and ensure that they comply with EU laws and values. The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority has also said that it would investigate Meta’s role in the digital advertising market and its dominance in social media.
- Legal battles: Meta is already involved in several legal disputes and investigations over its practices and policies on its existing platforms. These include antitrust lawsuits from US states and federal agencies, privacy complaints from users and regulators in Europe, data breaches and leaks affecting millions of users, allegations of spreading misinformation and hate speech, whistleblower revelations of internal documents exposing its harmful impacts on society and democracy, and human rights violations in countries like Myanmar and Ethiopia. These legal battles could undermine Meta’s credibility and trustworthiness as a leader in the metaverse.
- Social backlash: Meta’s rebranding has also sparked a negative reaction from some users, critics and activists who accuse the company of trying to distract from its problems and controversies by changing its name. They also argue that Meta is trying to evade accountability and responsibility for its actions by creating a new identity. Some have also expressed doubts about Meta’s ability to deliver a positive and inclusive metaverse that respects human rights and values. They fear that Meta could use its power and influence to shape the metaverse according to its own interests and agenda, rather than those of its users and society at large.
How will Meta address these challenges and risks?
Meta has acknowledged some of the challenges and risks that it faces in building the metaverse and has pledged to work with regulators, lawmakers, experts and stakeholders to address them. The company has also said that it will adopt a more transparent and collaborative approach to developing the metaverse and that it will uphold high standards of safety, security, privacy and ethics.
Zuckerberg said that he was aware of the skepticism and criticism that Meta faces and that he was committed to building the metaverse responsibly. He said that he wanted to create a metaverse that would benefit everyone, not just Meta or its shareholders. He also said that he was open to feedback and suggestions on how to improve Meta’s products and services.
Meta has also announced some initiatives and measures to support its vision for the metaverse. These include:
- Investing $10 billion in 2021 in research and development for augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies.
- Hiring 10,000 people in Europe over the next five years to work on the metaverse.
- Creating a new division called Reality Labs that will focus on building hardware, software and content for the metaverse.
- Launching a new platform called Presence Platform that will enable developers to create mixed reality experiences for Oculus Quest 2 devices.
- Investing $150 million in immersive learning programs to train the next generation of creators for the metaverse.
- Introducing new features and tools for its platforms such as Horizon Home, Horizon Workrooms, Horizon Worlds, Spark AR Studio, Spark AR Certification Program.