FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOWER FEARS THE METAVERSE
AppleMagazine|November 12, 2021
Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen warned that the “metaverse,” the all-encompassing virtual reality world at the heart of the social media giant’s growth strategy, will be addictive and rob people of yet more personal information while giving the embattled company another monopoly online.

In an interview, Haugen said her former employer rushed to trumpet the metaverse recently because of the intense pressure it is facing after she revealed deep-seated problems at the company, in disclosures that have energized legislative and regulatory efforts around the world to crack down on Big Tech.

“If you don’t like the conversation, you try to change the conversation,” the former product manager-turned-whistleblower said. The documents she has turned over to authorities and her testimony to lawmakers have drawn global attention for providing insight into what Facebook may have known about the damage its social media platforms can cause. She is in the midst of a series of appearances before European lawmakers and regulators who are drawing up rules for social media companies.

Meta, the new name for the parent company of Facebook, denied it was trying to divert attention away from the troubles it faces by pushing the metaverse. “This is not true. We have been working on this for a long time internally,” the company said in a statement.

It stressed that it’s working to responsibly build the metaverse — essentially a series of interconnected virtual communities that will merge online life with real life. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said that users will, for example, be able to attend virtual concerts or fence with holograms of Olympic athletes in the metaverse — and he refocused the entire company on creating it, including renaming the business Meta.

Launching that new brand, in fact, draws attention to the company, it said in a statement, adding that if it didn’t want the scrutiny it would have delayed or scrapped the launch altogether.

But the new focus on the metaverse creates a whole new set of dangers, Haugen said. In “Snow Crash,” the 1992 sci-fi novel that coined the phrase, “it was a thing that people used to numb themselves when their lives were horrible,” she said.

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