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In the middle of a crisis, Facebook Inc. renames itself Meta

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In the middle of a crisis, Facebook Inc. renames itself Meta

Like many companies in trouble before it, Facebook is changing its name and logo.

Facebook Inc. is now called Meta Platforms Inc., or Meta for short, to reflect what CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Thursday is its commitment to developing the new surround-yourself technology known as the ” metaverse.” But the social network itself will still be called Facebook.

Also unchanged, at least for now, are its chief executive and senior leadership, its corporate structure and the crisis that has enveloped the company.

Skeptics immediately accused the company of trying to change the subject from the Facebook Papers, the trove of leaked documents that have plunged it into the biggest crisis since it was founded in Zuckerberg’s Harvard dorm room 17 years ago. The documents portray Facebook as putting profits ahead of ridding its platform of hate, political strife and misinformation around the world.

The move reminded marketing consultant Laura Ries of when energy company BP rebranded itself to “Beyond Petroleum” to escape criticism that the oil giant harmed the environment.

“Facebook is the world’s social media platform, and they are being accused of creating something that is harmful to people and society,” she said. “They can’t walk away from the social network with a new corporate name and talk of a future metaverse.”

Facebook the app is not changing its name. Nor are Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger. The company’s corporate structure also won’t change. But on Dec. 1, its stock will start trading under a new ticker symbol, MVRS.

The metaverse is sort of the internet brought to life, or at least rendered in 3D. Zuckerberg has described it as a “virtual environment” you can go inside of, instead of just looking at on a screen. People can meet, work and play, using virtual reality headsets, augmented reality glasses, smartphone apps or other devices.

It also will incorporate other aspects of online life such as shopping and social media, according to Victoria Petrock, an analyst who follows emerging technologies.

Zuckerberg’s foray into virtual reality has drawn some comparisons to fellow tech billionaires’ outer space adventures and jokes that perhaps it’s understandable he would want to escape his current reality amid calls for his resignation and increasing scrutiny of the company.

On Monday, Zuckerberg announced a new segment for Facebook that will begin reporting its financial results separately from the company’s Family of Apps segment starting in the final quarter of this year. The entity, Reality Labs, will reduce Facebook’s overall operating profit by about $10 billion this year, the company said.

Other tech companies such as Microsoft, chipmaker Nvidia and Fortnite maker Epic Games have all been outlining their own visions of how the metaverse will work.

Zuckerberg said that he expects the metaverse to reach a billion people within the next decade and that he hopes the new technology will creates millions of jobs for creators.

The announcement comes amid heightened legislative and regulatory scrutiny of Facebook in many parts of the world because of the Facebook Papers. A corporate rebranding isn’t likely to solve the myriad problems revealed by the internal documents or quiet the alarms that critics have been raising for years about the harm the company’s products are causing to society.

Zuckerberg, for his part, has largely dismissed the furor triggered by the Facebook Papers as unfair.

In an interesting twist, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the philanthropic organization run by Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, bought a Canadian scientific literature analysis company called Meta in 2017.

By Thursday afternoon, though, its website Meta.org announced that it will “sunset” at the end of March. The Meta.com domain, meanwhile, redirected to the former Facebook’s rebranded corporate site.

At headquarters in Menlo Park, California, the iconic thumbs up sign that has long been outside was repainted to a blue, pretzel-shape logo resembling an infinity symbol.

Some of Facebook’s biggest critics seemed unimpressed by the name change. The Real Facebook Oversight Board, a watchdog group focused on the company, announced that it will keep its name.

“Changing their name doesn’t change reality: Facebook is destroying our democracy and is the world’s leading peddler of disinformation and hate,” the group said in a statement. “Their meaningless name change should not distract from the investigation, regulation and real, independent oversight needed to hold Facebook accountable.”

In explaining the rebrand, Zuckerberg said the name Facebook no longer encompasses everything the company does. In addition to the social network, that now includes Instagram, Messenger, its Quest VR headset, its Horizon VR platform and more.

“Today we are seen as a social media company,” Zuckerberg said. “But in our DNA we are a company that builds technology to connect people.”


OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)

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UK to block Facebook parent Meta’s $315M acquisition of Giphy

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It is expected that the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will reverse Facebook parent company Meta’s purchase of Giphy in the coming days, according to the Financial Times.

 If that happens, it will mark the first time that the country’s competition regulator has unraveled a major tech acquisition.

Meta (Facebook previously) announced in May 2020 that it bought the GIF platform with the goal of rolling it into Instagram. Reports set the price of the deal at $400 million.

As such, Meta has previously argued that because Giphy doesn’t have any operations in the UK, the CMA has no jurisdiction in this case. In addition, it claimed Giphy’s paid services couldn’t be classed as display advertising according to the CMA’s market definition.

“After failing to compete with new innovators, Facebook illegally bought or buried them when their popularity became an existential threat,” Holly Vedova, acting head of the U.S.’ Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) competition bureau, said in a statement.

The FTC filed a revised complaint against the firm just weeks after a judge threw out its original case in June. The judge had accused federal regulators of failing to provide enough evidence that Facebook created a monopoly in the social networking space.

The CMA opened an investigation into the deal the following month after it raised concerns about the acquisition. The regulator declared in August that the deal could prevent rivals such as TikTok and Snapchat from accessing Giphy’s library of GIFs, as well as removing a potential competitor to Meta in the UK advertising sector.

Meta ended Giphy’s paid ad partnerships, which the CMA said ceased the company’s ad expansion, including to other countries. Also, the watchdog suggested Meta could be forced to sell the service, having until December 1st to publish its final decision.

The UK regulator fined Meta, in October, more than $67.2 million for a “major breach” of an order to remain separate from Giphy during its investigation. The fine was the largest ever handed down by the agency. This step was taken after the regulator accused Meta of “consciously refusing to report” information about the merger.

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Australia plans laws to make social networks identify trolls

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In a step meant to set restrictions on social media platforms, the Australian government is planning to introduce laws that force social media platforms to “unmask” online trolls despite experts saying it will do little to reduce online abuse.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed plans for legislation that could force social networks to reveal the identities of trolls and others making defamatory comments. A complaint mechanism would require online platforms to take these hostile posts down, and if they don’t, the court system could order a given site to provide details of the offending poster.

“Digital platforms, these online companies, must have proper processes to enable the takedown of this content. There needs to be an easy and quick and fast way for people to raise these issues with these platforms and get it taken down,” Morrison said on Sunday afternoon.

The PM’s announcement of the anti-troll social media legislation comes two months after he said social media platforms were a “coward’s palace” and declared that they would be viewed as publishers if they are unwilling to identify users that post foul and offensive content.

In addition, the proposed laws would also make it mandatory for social media platforms to have a standardised complaints system that allows defamatory remarks to be removed and trolls identified with their consent.

As such, Digital Rights Watch executive director Lucie Krahulcova, made some remarks regarding these laws, saying they are not focused on pursuing people who libel, malign, harass, or commit similar crimes online.

“They’re not actually very excited about enforcing [existing laws] on behalf of women, people of colour, and historically I think there’s plenty of evidence of that in Australia,” Krahulcova said.

The laws, if passed, would also redirect the liability for potential defamation from organisations running a social media page to social media platforms instead.

Federal Attorney-General Michaelia Cash explained the attempt to shift defamation liability is in response to the recent Voller High Court case, which set a legal precedent where Australians who maintain social media pages could be publishers of defamatory comments made by others on social media even if they did not know about the comments. Since the ruling, media outlet CNN disabled its Facebook page in Australia.

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Nissan investing in electric vehicles, battery development

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Nissan investing in electric vehicles, battery development

Nissan said Monday it is investing 2 trillion yen ($17.6 billion) over the next five years and developing a cheaper, more powerful battery to boost its electric vehicle lineup.

The Japanese automaker’s chief executive, Makoto Uchida, said 15 new electric vehicles will be available by fiscal 2030. Nissan Motor Co. is aiming for a 50% “electrification” of the company’s model lineup, under what Uchida called the “Nissan Ambition 2030” long-term plan. Electrified vehicles include hybrids and other kinds of environmentally friendly models other than just electric vehicles.

The effort is focused mainly on electric vehicles to cut emissions and meet various customers’ needs, said Uchida. Nissan also will reduce carbon emissions at its factories, he added.

The company has been struggling to put the scandal of its former Chairman Carlos Ghosn behind it. Ghosn, who led Nissan for two decades, after he was sent to Japan by French alliance partner Renault, was arrested in Tokyo in 2018 on various financial misconduct charges.

Uchida made no mention of the scandal but referred to “past mistakes” he promised won’t be repeated at Nissan.

Nissan’s “electrification” rests on developing a new ASSB, or all solid state battery, that it categorized as “a breakthrough” for being cheaper and generating more power than batteries now in use.

That means electric powertrains can be more easily used in trucks, vans and other heavier vehicles because the batteries can be smaller. The ASSB will be in mass production by 2028, according to Nissan.

The costs of electric vehicles will also fall thanks to the battery innovation to levels comparable with regular gasoline cars, Uchida said.

“Nissan has emerged from a crisis and is ready to make a new start,” he said.

All top automakers, including Nissan’s Japanese rival Toyota Motor Corp., are working on electric vehicles, amid growing concern over climate change and sustainability. Global consumers are also demanding more safety features.

Uchida said Nissan was hiring 3,000 engineers to strengthen its research, including digital technology for vehicles.

Nissan, based in Yokohama, Japan, has suffered recently from the computer chips shortage that’s slammed all automakers because of lockdowns and other measures at chip factories to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

The maker of the Infiniti luxury models, Leaf electric vehicle and Z sportscar is projecting a return to profitability for the fiscal year through March 2022 after racking up two straight years of losses.


TOKYO (AP)

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