Facebook’s HOSTILE META Takeover
You may have recently heard that Facebook is rebranding. Their new name, Meta, is a reflection of their goal to build out the “metaverse,” a virtual, interconnected world that Zuckerberg and other tech CEOs see as the internet’s future. In the most reductive terms, it’s like OASIS from Ready Player One, but probably with more microtransactions and NFTs.
Meta has wasted no time in their quest for virtual dominance, coming out the gate with intimidations, suppression tactics and takedowns for anyone in their way.
Australian Artist Loses @Metaverse Days after Rebrand
In November, an Australian artist named Thea-Mai Baumann had her Instagram account silently removed without warning. The name of that account: @Metaverse.
Baumann utilized the handle @Metaverse for nearly a decade, documenting her artwork, travels and augmented reality business called Metaverse Makeovers. Once Facebook decided to rebrand as Meta, Baumann found herself sitting on a hot piece of internet real estate.
However, that wouldn’t last long. On November 2nd, Baumann shockingly found her account disabled by Instagram. The message on her screen read, “Your account has been blocked for pretending to be someone else.”
Funny how someone can pretend for nine years to be a company that didn’t exist until two months ago.
In an interview with The New York Times, Baumann explains, “This account is a decade of my life and work. I didn’t want my contribution to the metaverse to be wiped from the internet.”
Baumann, who is of Vietnamese heritage, adds “This happens to women in tech, to women of color in tech, all the time.”
To Facebook, it didn’t matter that Baumann spent 10 years contributing to the platform, running a business and documenting her hard work. She had something that they wanted. What it meant to her, what it resembled, and what livelihood it provided was completely irrelevant.
“Mistakes were made”
Thankfully, Baumann’s Instagram was reinstated on December 13th, only a couple hours after the NYT article went live. Now Instagram claims it was all a “mistake.”
But is that really the happy ending we’re looking for?
Baumann tried to go through all of Facebook and Instagram’s dedicated customer support channels, but despite her best efforts, she got nowhere. What it took for Facebook to change their mind was a wave of media backlash sparked by an article from The New York Times. On the silver lining, Baumann’s following has tripled following this situation.
Facebook’s Current Lawsuit with META Company
Baumann’s case isn’t the only instance of Facebook – or Meta – infringing on an already owned intellectual property. Currently, a Chicago-based tech company called Meta Company is taking Facebook to court, saying that the social network stole their name and livelihood.
Meta Company Founder, Nate Skullic said in an open letter that, “They couldn’t buy us, so they tried to bury us by force of media. We shouldn’t be surprised by these actions – from a company that continually says one thing and does another.”
He went on to add, “We refused their offer on multiple bases. Namely, the low offer wouldn’t cover the costs of changing our name, and we insisted on knowing the client and intent, which they did not want to disclose.”
Now Meta Company is trying to distance themselves from any association with Facebook/Meta.
“We hope the negative association with Facebook and its founder will be forgotten — but we won’t ignore the damages done.”
Update: While writing this, Facebook has just spent $60 million to acquire the naming rights for “Meta” from a South Dakota bank called Meta Financial Group. What impact this will have on Meta Company’s case is yet to be seen.
Who will Survive in the Metaverse?
It seems like shame is one of the last defenses against this greedy corporate conglomerate. Facebook’s name change to Meta is undoubtedly an effort to distance itself from its former brand – despite what Zuckerberg may say. And after an entire media onslaught, they did relinquish Baumann’s handle. Maybe something similar will happen with Meta Company’s lawsuit too.
The real question though: how long will this strategy last? Facebook didn’t need to give Baumann her handle back. They did it to save face after they were found out. If public shaming is the only thing keeping Facebook from going mask off then we need to rethink our strategy.
It’s honestly a complete farce to think this brand change would make any meaningful difference to Facebook’s practices at all. Ultimately, it’s still the same shady platform and company under a new coat of paint.
Why anyone would want to enter their metaverse, we’re not too sure.