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What the Tech: With Facebook becoming Meta, it could be more malignant than ever

Facebook has changed its name and revealed its ambitions to establish a new metaverse, but its likely to poison any dimension it gets its hands on.

Facebook is dead; long live Meta.

The company that owns WhatsApp, Instagram and yes, Facebook, has now changed its name to ‘Meta’, in anticipation of launching a new ‘metaverse’ that seeks to conquer not only your smartphone screen, but seemingly the very fabric of reality itself if its latest presentation is anything to go by.

With all the easy charisma of a fourteen year old boy standing in front of a mirror practising how to ask out his crush, our overlord Mark Zuckerberg instructed us that Facebook had grand ambitions in augmented reality, a prospect he couldn’t stop describing as “awesome” – which it no doubt will be, for the growth prospects of his already obscene >$100 billion net worth.

A video showed Zuckerberg joining his imaginary friends on a virtual space station (hinting at more than a little suppressed jealousy over the likes of Jeff Bezos), as it was explained that all sorts of social and economic activities would be hosted by the metaverse. We’re not too far away from a world where Facebook not only supplies you with stale memes and ranting relatives, but stands over your shoulder for all of your daily tasks, from shopping to playing video games and noting down everything you do. 

In order to reassure us that Facebook was not here not merely to invade our privacy or even abolish it for good, the Zuck played his trump card to win over our trust: Sir Nick Clegg, former Deputy Prime Minister of the UK. If you are fortunate enough to know nothing about this man, he’s the one who promised to vote against any rise in student tuition fees and then did the exact opposite. As endorsements go, it’s a little like a veganism campaign hiring Hannibal Lecter as its spokesman.

It’s clear from the confidence, or rather contempt, that emanated from this conference that Facebook will not be deterred in seeking an ever increasing amount of power over our daily lives. The Cambridge Analytica scandal has not discouraged the brand from harvesting more of our personal data; it’s only ditching its soiled name to infiltrate our lives ever more insidiously.

In The Crucible, the tormented character John Proctor desolately protests “I have given you my soul; leave me my name.” Facebook gave up the former a long time ago, if indeed it ever did possess one, and now it’s giving up the latter with a creepy permasmile and a clammy handshake. What is it hoping to gain? By the looks of it, everything.

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