‘Whistleblower’ Frances Haugen Calls Facebook’s Transition to Meta a ‘Distraction’

By Victor Westerkamp | November 11, 2021
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The META logo on a laptop screen under a magnifying glass as if under scrutiny. Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg announced the parent company's name is being changed to "Meta" to represent a future to fend off one of its worst crises yet and pivot to its ambitions for the "Metaverse" virtual reality version of the internet. (Image: KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP via Getty Images)

Former Facebook employee Frances Haugen said Facebook’s recent renaming of its parent company to Meta was born out of profit over safety, calling it a “distraction” while others called the Metaverse project “dead on arrival.”

Last month, Haugen, a former product manager, leaked several documents alleging Facebook has harmed children’s mental health and has been stirring societal divisions. The tech giant is still disregarding transparency and prioritizing profits over safety, she said.

“I was shocked that they could afford 10,000 new engineers working on video games, but they couldn’t keep women safe,” Haugen, who has testified publicly against the company in the U.S. and in Europe, said in an interview on the BBC. 

Haugen was alluding to the devastating effects she says the company’s photo-sharing platform Instagram has had on the mental conditions of vulnerable teen girls.

Haugen said the move was a typical decoy to steer away from the company’s sloppiness on its societal responsibility, calling it a distraction.

“A classic public health crisis communication technique is that if you don’t like the conversation, you try to change the conversation. I’ve heard from multiple sources that they rushed the launch of the Metaverse because they wanted to change the conversation,” Haugen said. “They wanted to no longer talk about safety on their platforms. Instead, they want to talk about video games. I think, like, it is a distraction. Unquestionably, it is a distraction.”

Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg has been philosophizing about his metaverse to come for almost a decade, but the sudden lurch seems more likely to be inspired by despair than by confidence.

Pivot co-host Scott Galloway, for instance, explained that he believes the Metaverse is a kind of public relations stunt. When interviewed by New York Magazine, he stated:

“In actuality, Facebook is basically spending $10 billion on a prayer that, in the short run, it might change the conversation. It gives them an opportunity to talk about the Metaverse instead of insurrection and teen depression. It gives Mark Zuckerberg a chance to talk about the Metaverse instead of saying, ‘Hi, I’m the CEO of Facebook, I’m ruining the world.’ But Facebook’s Metaverse won’t work.”

READ MORE: Zuckerberg: How Facebook morphed Into Meta

Galloway clearly says the new metaverse is “dead on arrival” and calls the Oculus headgear, a prerequisite to enter the Metaverse, “clunky.”

“…Facebook’s Metaverse is dead on arrival. The fundamental mistake people make around these AR or VR experiences is to immediately think of sight as the entry point into a Metaverse. … The Oculus is not a wearable. In fact, it’s prophylactic. No one’s going to get near you. It’s basically the fastest way to say, ‘I don’t date.’ You’re never going to get mass adoption with an item that is clunky, makes you nauseous, and has a negative self-expressive benefit.”

The whole upheaval about the revelations by Haugen and others seem effusive, according to CounterPunch contributor, Jonathan Cook, who argues Haugen shouldn’t be labeled a whistleblower. She never really disclosed anything that we haven’t already heard. Meanwhile, whistleblowers generally are met with aggressive opposition when they speak up by entities wanting to keep the status quo. Contrarily, Facebook is giving her free reign and she is not facing any negative consequences for her “courage.”