The announcement by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that the social media giant will change the name of its holding company to Meta in a virtual-reality rebrand has prompted dismay and bemusement.
On Thursday, Zuckerberg said Meta would encompass Facebook as well as apps such as Instagram, WhatsApp and the virtual reality brand Oculus.
“Announcing Meta — the Facebook company’s new name,” the tech giant said in a tweet. “Meta is helping to build the metaverse, a place where we’ll play and connect in 3D. Welcome to the next chapter of social connection.”
The rebrand comes as the company faces a series of public relations crises.
A trove of recently leaked documents now known as the Facebook Papers exposed the inner workings of the company, with allegations from whistleblower Francis Haugen that Facebook has put profits ahead of ridding its platform of hate speech and misinformation.
Satirical late night news programme the Daily Show tweaked Zuckerberg’s Meta presentation video by superimposing the tech billionaire onto footage of the January 6 Capitol riots and the 2017 Charlottesville white nationalist march. Both events were organised on Facebook.
“Imagine you’ve put on your glasses or headset and you’re instantly in your home space and it has an incredibly inspiring view of whatever you find most beautiful,” Zuckerberg says as footage of Capital rioters and a group of tiki torch-bearing white supremacists plays in the background.
Politicians across all party lines also joined the conversation about the controversial rebrand.
New York progressive congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez didn’t hold back in her disapproval, calling the company “a cancer to democracy” and “a global surveillance and propaganda machine for boosting authoritarian regimes and destroying civil society.”
US Senators Richard Blumenthal and Ed Markey didn’t mince their words either.
Blumenthal, a former Attorney General of Connecticut, alleged the name change was nothing more than an effort to “confuse” and “distract” but ultimately “won’t erase years of devious practices & disregard for privacy, kids’ wellbeing, spreading hate, & genocide.”
Markey refused to acknowledge the name change. “Facebook wants us to start calling it Meta, but we’re just going to keep calling it what it is, a threat to privacy, democracy, and children,” he said.
Away from the motives for the rebrand, some took issue with the name Meta itself.
“Meta is such a low effort, first draft name that multiple consulting companies definitely got paid millions of dollars to come up with,” comedian and producer Mike Drucker said.
“And it was on that day that ‘that’s so meta’ went from being an interesting observation to a devastating insult,” author and science vlogger Hank Green wrote.
Other companies joined the rebranding bandwagon. Fast food outlet Wendy’s tweeted: “Changing name to Meat.”
Twitter also jumped on board with the official Twitter account joking they had “big news” followed by the clarification – “lol jk still twitter”. The social media platform’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, offered a definition to help anyone confused by the change. “Meta: referring to itself or to the conventions of its genre; self-referential,” he wrote.