Facebook, like a handful of cigarette, agrochemical and private mercenary conglomerates before it, changed their company names amid a public relations crisis: On Thursday, October 28, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the The tech giant’s parent company would now be known as Meta.
Zuckerberg announced the name change at the end of his keynote address to open Facebook Connect, an annual conference for AR / VR developers and creators. Zuckerberg said the name change decision reflected the company’s desire to refocus on âmetaverseâ experiences and services, moving from traditional social media to immersive virtual environments, e-commerce developments and games.
âOur mission remains the same – it’s still about bringing people together,â Zuckerberg said. “But now we have a new North Star, to help bring the Metaverse to life, and we have a new name that reflects the full scope of what we do and the future we want to help build.”
What was obviously not mentioned in the opening speech is the fact that the name change comes right after a disastrous deluge of bad PR for Facebook. Back in September, The Wall Street Journal began publishing a series of reports based on a wealth of internal documents that showed how aware the company was of the damage done by its platforms – which also include Instagram and WhatsApp – from helping the spread of misinformation to exacerbate teenage self-esteem issues. These internal documents were then shared with other news outlets, who uncovered additional details on everything from the piecemeal application of disinformation by Facebook to the January 6 riot. on Capitol Hill, with minimal effort to stop the spread of violent rhetoric in Ethiopia and India.
Zuckerberg did not address these issues during his opening speech, in which he asserted that privacy and security will remain key tenets as Facebook grows in the metaverse: “These have to be fundamentals,” said he declared.
Facebook is certainly not the first tech company to change its corporate name: Google’s parent company became Alphabet in 2015, while Snapchat shortened its name to Snap Inc. the following year. The proximity of the Facebook-Meta name change to the âFacebook Filesâ leaks, however, doesn’t exactly make the decision seem trivial. Rather, it is reminiscent of the rebranding of tobacco giant Philip Morris under the name Altria; or the pharmaceutical conglomerate Bayer abandoning the Monsanto name after having bought the agrochemical activity in 2018; or the famous private military company Blackwater going by two different names in as many years, first renamed Xe Services in 2009, before moving to Academi in 2011.