When you want to rule the metaverse, but people think you're from the Negaverse

NationalBusinessTechnologyCommunity Gaming
Collaborator: Jasmin Washington
Published: 11/24/2021, 5:11 PM
Edited: 02/27/2022, 7:30 PM

(NATIONAL) Facebook made headlines last month when they rebranded their company to “Meta”, but will their name change and virtual reality pivot be enough to break away from the negative pushback on their current social media platforms? 

What is the metaverse?  

“We’ve gone from desktop to web to phones from text to photos to video, but this isn’t the end of the line,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said during their Meta announcement. “The next platform and medium will be even more immersive and embodied internet where you’re in the experience, not just looking at it, and we call this the metaverse.”  

Basically, the metaverse is a virtual world that people will be able to use to travel around, take part in different experiences, and (of course) buy stuff using avatars.   

Zuckerberg said he expects 1 billion to be part of his virtual world in the next 10 years.  

“We’re a company that focuses on connecting people,” Zuckerberg said. “While most other companies focus on how people interact with technology, we focus on building technology so people can focus on each other. One of the reasons I started Facebook was because at the time you could use the internet to find almost anything. Information, news, movies, music, shopping. Expect for the thing that matters most of all. People.”  

But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for Meta, despite the promising tech.  

Facebook backlash  

Meta’s mission to rule the metaverse has not gone over smoothly, especially since a massive document leak by whistleblower Frances Haugen showed Facebook algorithms previously valued angry reactions more than likes, driving negativity and discord throughout the social media platform.  

Haugen said she believes the rebranding is just a cover up for recent scandals and will result in an even more complex privacy nightmare, since the metaverse will require people to put a lot more sensors in their homes and workplaces. 

The metaverse relies on different ways of tracking people’s body movements and expressions to animate their avatars, which means the tech companies need more access to the things around you. 

“If you're doing an augmented experience or a virtual experience, you could be collecting data on that user constantly,” Mark Skwarek, industry associate professor at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering, told Yahoo Finance. “You'll be able to predict what people think.”

With trust and transparency on the low end of the spectrum at Meta, critics argue they are not the best fit for the job. 

Instagram backlash  

Meta purchased Instagram back in 2012. Instagram’s first intentions were for sharing photos but as stated by their head Adam Mosseri “Instagram is no longer a photo sharing app.” 

As more kids joined Instagram, more parents and other adults became concerned. Then word got out that Meta was building an Instagram for children under 13. And that did not go over well with a lot of people. 

Earlier this year, a bipartisan group of 40+ attorneys general urged Facebook to abandon its plans for Kids Instagram. 

“The Office of the Oklahoma Attorney has a duty to protect those who are most vulnerable to exploitation,” Oklahoma General John O’Connor said. “Our office is invested in protecting against social media’s harmful effects on the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of children.”

According to AP News, activists are also calling for the U.S. to pass a national digital privacy act that would apply to platforms like whatever Meta is building.

What does the future hold?  

It is clear that while Meta still has a lot of convincing to do before some people set foot in their virtual world, others are ready and waiting to jump right in.  

In their latest report, Facebook said their daily active users were 1.93 billion for September 2021, up 6 percent year-over-year. But daily active users in the United States and Canada actually dropped by 3 million, from 198 million to 195 million, in the second quarter of this year compared to last.   

Rampant misinformation and disinformation are problems that have plagued Facebook heavily the past few years, and these issues were not touched on during the Meta announcement. Instead, Zuckerberg spoke about logistical transparency, data protection and general safety.   

“And we’re spending a lot of time talking with experts and getting perspectives from outside the company on what we’re building, even before we build it,” Zuckerberg said. “And this is about designing for safety and privacy and inclusion before the products even exist.”  

As critics decry Facebook as stoking the fires for the next civil war in the U.S., how Meta will prevent and diffuse such escalations in the metaverse remains to be seen.


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