The real reason why Facebook wants to rebrand itself as a Metaverse network

Facebook. (File Photo: IANS)

Oct 20 – Social media giant Facebook is planning to rebrand the company with a new name that focuses on the metaverse — a term that many of us have little idea about.

According to industry experts, building the brand’s resonance will involve creating more awareness around Facebook, with an intent to forge a positive association with target end-users, at a time when the social network is facing several regulatory hurdles over users’ data privacy and security globally.

There would be no change in the branding of Facebook’s original app and service.

However, it is likely to be placed under a parent company whose portfolio will include other brands with millions of consumers such as Instagram and WhatsApp.

Google already maintains a similar work flow by making Alphabet its parent company and Snapchat has Snap Inc as its parent.

“As companies evolve beyond their original mission, and respond to new market and tech realities, for instance, the Metaverse, they seek to rebuild their brand equity with their current and potential future user base.

“Among other things, such a rebranding helps such companies to potentially claim the leadership mantle in these emerging disruptive technologies,” Prabhu Ram, Head, Industry Intelligence Group, CMR, told IANS.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is expected to announce the new branding at the company’s Connect conference on October 28.

“I think with the focus on Metaverse, Facebook wants to completely reposition itself and go beyond simple social networking. To show that substantial jump, rebranding is one way to get that across users and other ecosystems,” said techarc Founder and Chief Analyst, Faisal Kawoosa.

The new name for the company is a closely-guarded secret and even the full senior leadership isn’t aware of it.

There’s a possibility that the new name may also have something to do with the word “Horizon”.

Meanwhile, people on Twitter had plenty of suggestions.

“Name it Hooli or dissolve the company,” a user said in a tweet.

“It would be awesome if Facebook changes its name to Ye,” said another user.

“We have received your request to change your name. However, due to our real names policy, you will first need to fax us a copy of your court order and new driver’s license,” another user posted on social media.

Facebook in September announced that it will invest $50 million to partner with the organisation to responsibly build the Metaverse – a new phase of interconnected virtual experiences using technologies like virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR).

The Metaverse is a set of virtual spaces where one can create and explore with other people who aren’t in the same physical space.

The social network has also announced plans to hire 10,000 people to help it build the Metaverse.

According to the company, the next computing platform has the potential to help unlock access to new creative, social and economic opportunities.

Facebook. (File Photo: IANS)

Facebook can’t be trusted to manage payment system says US lawmakers

Sharpening the attack on Facebook, a group of US Democrats has asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to end his digital wallet and cryptocurrency project, adding that the social network can’t be trusted to manage cryptocurrency.

In a letter, Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and others said that Facebook is once again “pursuing digital currency plans on an aggressive timeline.”

“It has already launched a pilot for a payments infrastructure network, even though these plans are incompatible with the actual financial regulatory landscape — not only for Diem specifically, but also for stablecoins in general,” the letter read.

The letter came after Facebook launched Novi, a new digital wallet, as part of a pilot programme in the US and Guatemala, reports The Verge.

In the letter, the senators said, “Facebook cannot be trusted to manage a payment system or digital currency when its existing ability to manage risks and keep consumers safe has proven wholly insufficient”.

“We urge you to immediately discontinue your Novi pilot and to commit that you will not bring Diem to market,” they stressed.

Facebook and 20 partner organisations formally joined their digital currency project called “Libra” during a meeting in Geneva in October 2019.

After facing intense criticism from lawmakers and regulators, Facebook had to shelve the “Libra” digital currency project.

Later, the company rebranded Libra currency as “Diem” (diem means day in Latin) which is yet to be released.

In a statement, a Novi spokesperson said on Tuesday, “We look forward to responding to the Committee’s letter.”

Earlier, in a bid to win regulators’ hearts, Facebook had said that its cryptocurrency will offer stable coins backed by just one nation’s currency, meaning some coins offered would serve as the equivalent value of a dollar or a Euro.

However, several heavyweights pulled out of the Libra project, like PayPal, Mastercard, Visa, Mercado Pago, eBay, Stripe and Booking Holdings and Vodafone over privacy concerns.

Facebook. (File Photo: IANS)

Facebook will stop kids from watching content unsupervised

 Facebook is delivering an update to Portal devices that will make it possible to turn off the Watch Together feature during calls in Household Mode.

According to The Verge, the update comes shortly after a BuzzFeed News article criticised Facebook’s blatant oversight of not including an “off” switch for the feature.

Watch Together lets you watch shows, music videos, or funny clips with distant friends or family members. Choose a video from Facebook’s selection, and it will be simultaneously presented to you on your Portal and on your friend’s device, whether that may be a phone, tablet or Portal.

Watch Together may sound like a great idea, but it obviously isn’t ideal for parents who want to keep their kids away from videos on the internet, the report said.

When a Portal device is in Household Mode, everyone in the house has access to it and that includes kids. The Watch Together feature remains hidden in Household Mode, but it reappears during calls.

This can be a recipe for disaster, as BuzzFeed News noted, since kids can grab hold of the device, start up a call, and begin watching videos with others, the report said.

Right now, there’s no way to disable Watch Together during calls in Household Mode — likely leaving some parents feeling frustrated — but that’s all about to change.

In response to the BuzzFeed News report, Andrew Bosworth, the vice president of Facebook Reality Labs, sent out a tweet that says Facebook is working on a solution.

UK watchdog fines Facebook $70M over enforcement order breach

As Facebook gets prepared to rebrand itself for the ‘Metaverse’ future, the UK anti-trust regulator on Wednesday fined the social network nearly $70 million for deliberately withholding information related to ongoing antitrust probe of its acquisition of popular GIF search engine Giphy.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) also fined Facebook 500,000 pounds for changing its Chief Compliance Officer on two separate occasions without seeking consent first.

This is the first time a company has been found by the CMA to have breached an initial enforcement order (IEO) by consciously refusing to report all the required information.

“Given the multiple warnings it gave Facebook, the CMA considers that Facebook’s failure to comply was deliberate. As a result, the CMA has issued a fine of 50 million pounds for this major breach, which fundamentally undermined its ability to prevent, monitor and put right any issues,” the watchdog said in a statement.

It is standard practice to issue an IEO at the start of an investigation into a completed acquisition. This ensures that companies continue to compete with each other as they would have without the merger, and prevents the companies involved from integrating further while a merger investigation is ongoing.

The CMA imposed this type of order on Facebook in June 2020 in relation to its purchase of Giphy.

Facebook said last year that it was acquiring Giphy for nearly $400 million.

The social network was also criticised last year by the Competition Appeal Tribunal and Court of Appeal for its lack of cooperation with the CMA and “what might be regarded as a high-risk strategy” in relation to not complying with the IEO and not keeping the CMA updated as the IEO required.

“Companies are not required to seek CMA approval before they complete an acquisition but, if they decide to go ahead with a merger, we can stop the companies from integrating further if we think consumers might be affected and an investigation is needed,” said Joel Bamford, Senior Director of Mergers at the CMA.

“We warned Facebook that its refusal to provide us with important information was a breach of the order but, even after losing its appeal in two separate courts, Facebook continued to disregard its legal obligations,” he said, adding that this should serve as a warning to any company that thinks it is above the law.

The CMA’s investigation into Facebook’s merger with Giphy is ongoing.

The authority has provisionally found that Facebook’s takeover of Giphy will negatively impact competition between social media platforms.

Facebook. (File Photo: IANS)

Facebook to pay $4.79M fine for discriminating in favour of foreigners against US citizens

In a case that turns on its head the common perception of foreigners suffering bias in the US, Facebook is to pay a fine of $4.75 million for discriminating in favour of foreign workers on H1-B visas and against American citizens and permanent residents, according to the Justice Department.

The Department said on Tuesday that Facebook will also pay up to $9.75 million to the workers it had discriminated against under a settlement it made with it and the Labour Department.

“This settlement is an important step forward and means that US workers will have a fair chance to learn about and apply for Facebook’s job opportunities,” Labour Department Solicitor Seema Nanda said.

The Justice Department said that the fine and the backpay were the largest “that the Division ever has recovered in the 35-year history of the INA’s (Immigration and Naturalisation Act) anti-discrimination provision.”

The voluntary settlement by Facebook closes the case launched in December by the Justice Department in the final days of former President Donald Trump’s administration.

The Department had charged Facebook with routinely reserving jobs for H1-B visa holders, using recruiting methods designed to deter US workers from applying for certain positions, and hiring only temporary visa holders in 2018 and 2019.

The foreign workers were hired under the permanent labour certification programme (PERM) that would make them eligible for permanent resident status or green cards, the Department said.

“Companies cannot set aside certain positions for temporary visa holders because of their citizenship or immigration status. This settlement reflects the Civil Rights Division’s commitment to holding employers accountable and eradicating discriminatory employment practices,” said Kristen Clarke, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division Assistant Attorney General.

The Division comes under Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta.

Facebook said that although it strongly believed that it met the federal government standards for the PERM programme, “We’ve reached agreements to end the ongoing litigation and move forward with our PERM program, which is an important part of our overall immigration program.”

About 65 per cent of all H1-B visa holders are from India.

The Justice Department said that Facebook had made it difficult for US citizens and others with the right to work here by requiring them to apply only by mail for those positions while the foreigners were allowed to apply electronically.

Under the settlements, Facebook, whose PERM programme was audited by the Labour Department this year will also be required to advertise jobs more widely, and accept electronic resumes and applications from all.

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