Facebook has Meta problems, needs metanoia

The company formerly known as Facebook, now Meta, aims to shift into a new organization focused on virtual connectivity. Rebranding is not new for this firm; some may recall that it was originally TheFacebook.com. Mark Zuckerberg explained the name change in a founder’s letter for the new company at the end of October.

Facebook also announced at the beginning of November that it would end its facial recognition program. In the fine print of accepted terms, Facebook users permitted the company to develop facial ID templates. Consequently, Facebook now will delete more than a billion facial recognition templates.

Facebook’s new name changes absolutely nothing about the company’s problems – an avalanche of misinformation, hate, and other issues within the platform. To paraphrase the Bard, “That which we call Facebook / By Any Other Name would smell” (the phrase can stop there, omitting the subsequent words of Juliet). Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower, has brought to light, with internal company documents, a series of substantial concerns.

It comes to this: If we cannot trust Facebook in the real world, why would we be willing to trust them in the “metaverse?” If we occasionally experience Zoom fatigue, do we really want to live even more of our lives on the internet? Facebook needs not so much a change of name but a change of heart.

As Facebook faces critical coverage pushing the company to reform itself, it also confronts the virtually impossible: Transforming a company with a market capitalization just south of a trillion dollars—and yet that change, that conversion (what the Gospel calls metanoia) is what Facebook desperately needs.

The media outlet Vox interviewed 12 experts on how to fix Facebook. Some of the ideas track well with this year’s crop of shareholder resolutions. Last Friday was the filing deadline, and, in all, ICCR members and members of the Investor Alliance for Human Rights filed eight resolutions with the company. SGI members co-filed two of the resolutions: one calls for a separation between board chair and CEO, both currently occupied by Mark Zuckerberg, and the other calls for a report on Child Sexually Explicit Materials (CSAM) distributed on the platform. This year’s filings even caught the eye of the Wall Street Journal that reported on these efforts today.

While these efforts are important, will they change things at Facebook? Not yet. Zuckerberg, through Facebook’s dual class share structure and his “super-shares,” controls about 58% of the vote. Even if our efforts do not change the company at the 2022 shareholder meeting, we must remain persistent and call for genuine metanoia from this company, not just a glossy rebranding.

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