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Facebook expands into the metaverse with rebrand

Facebook has great ambitions for the future of our interaction with technology. Should we be scared or excited?

The metaverse, Facebook’s new long-term project, is already in full swing with plans to create over 10 000 jobs in Europe alone. But what is the metaverse exactly?

The company describes it as a place ‘where people will be able to lead their social and professional lives online’, using virtual reality headsets such as the Oculus Rift.

Yet, the metaverse is not just a Facebook-specific project, it is the future of technological interactions. It should be viewed as an interconnected web of metaverses, some developed by Facebook and others by companies such as Google, Apple, and video game providers.

It will allow all of its users to feel like they are inside the content, rather than simply viewing it. We will essentially be able to live inside this platform whether that be for work meetings, seeing our favorite artists perform, or socialising with people who are across the world.

Facebook hopes that the metaverse will be able to deepen human connection while also not increasing the amount of time that we spend online. This more meaningful use of technology is set to take 10 to 15 years to fully develop.

There are some apprehensions about this innovative project, however. Robin Mansell, professor of new media and the Internet, expresses concerns about the amount of governance arrangements in place to effectively regulate and oversee such an intrusive piece of digital technology.

She maintains that the problems we currently observe online – such as data gathering, surveillance and gender representation – will only be magnified by the metaverse project.

It remains extremely important that the evolution of this project be closely monitored and that regulatory mechanisms should be put in place accordingly.

Facebook has provided some reassurance – both through its words and its actions. Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s VP of Artificial Reality, has outlined the company’s extensive collaboration projects with policymakers, experts, and industry partners to make sure that the metaverse is a protected and egalitarian space.

50 million dollars have already been invested into the Programs and Research Fund which concerns various projects and external research. The main topics that this fund covers are inclusivity, privacy, safety, and economic opportunity. It seems like Facebook is doing a good thing here with investments in organisations such as Women in Immersive Tech and Africa No Filter.

Facebook’s deeper involvement in human and civil rights is likely a response to recent controversies the company has experienced.

This includes the revelations by the whistleblower Frances Haugen who shone a light on the information that Facebook had about the damage of social media, such as Instagram, on the mental health of adolescents.

Facebook seems willing to show that it does not put profit over the mental health of its users. The huge sum invested in research gives hope that the metaverse will meet strict regulatory and legal standards.

It is no secret that Mark Zuckerberg’s company wants to be at the forefront of technological innovation.

Part of this push also involves a further rebranding tool: the changing of the holding company’s name. While the exact change is unknown as of yet, it seems like Facebook has big projects for the future.

The question is, will the metaverse become the place where we live most of our lives?

 

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