UK minister criticizes Facebook name change to Meta

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A smartphone with the Facebook logo is seen in front of the new Facebook Meta rebranding logo in this illustration taken on October 28, 2021.

Dado Ruvic | Reuters

LONDON – Senior UK official slammed Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, for rebranding, and vowed to impose criminal penalties on social media bosses under new content laws harmful on the web.

“The rebranding is not working,” Nadine Dorries, UK minister for digital, culture, media and sport, told lawmakers on Thursday at a hearing on the online safety bill. “When harm is done, we pursue it.”

Meta was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC, but said the rebranding focused on its efforts to create a so-called “metaverse.”

Facebook changed its name to Meta last week in a move that has been criticized by some as an attempt to distract from its recent problems.

The company is facing one of its biggest crises in recent history, following a string of disclosures from a former employee turned whistleblower. One of the most notable is that the company was aware of the detrimental effects its Instagram app had on teens.

Whistleblower Frances Haugen appeared in the British Parliament last month, telling lawmakers that regulators have a “slight window of time” to act against the spread of hate speech and other harmful content on Facebook.

Meta says his name change is a pivot to what he calls “metaverse,” a kind of shared virtual reality in which multiple users can interact with each other as avatars. The company recently announced its intention to hire 10,000 engineers in the European Union to help it in its efforts to build the Metaverse.

Dorries said Meta should instead give these extra workers the task of “complying with your terms and conditions and removing your harmful algorithms.”

The UK government is moving forward with sweeping reforms that would hold social media companies to account for sharing harmful and illegal content on their platforms. The legislation threatens fines of up to 10% of global annual revenue or £ 18million ($ 24.2million), whichever is greater, for non-compliance.

According to the draft proposals, executives of social media companies could face criminal charges within two years if they fail to remove toxic content. However, Dorries has pledged to speed up criminal penalties.

“It won’t be two years,” she said. “I am looking at three to six months for criminal liability.”

The bill is currently under consideration by a committee of politicians led by Damian Collins, a lawmaker who blamed Facebook for the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal in 2018. Dorries urged the committee Thursday to deliver its recommendations to the government as soon as possible.

Tech giants have said they welcome regulation and are investing heavily in improving security on their platforms.

Dorries, who is probably best known to Britons for her appearance on the reality TV show “I’m a Celebrity… Get me out of here!”, Took over as Digital Minister from Oliver Dowden earlier this week. year during a surprise reshuffle. .

She has refined her rhetoric on taming big tech companies in recent weeks, urging an end to online abuse by anonymous trolls following the murder of UK lawmaker David Amess. Some ruling Conservative Party MPs believe anonymity on social media platforms contributed to Amess’ death.

“The issue of anonymity has dominated the conversation about online abuse over the past week,” Dorries said. written in a column for the Daily Mail newspaper last month. “Rest assured, this bill will end anonymous abuse, because it will end abuse, period.”


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