10 Commandments for Mark 'Moses' Zuckerberg As He Leads Us to Meta
The Biblical metaphors around Zuckerberg’s announcement are unmissable. He is Moses, the Pharaoh AND God.
Company chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced on 28 October the company is rebranding itself as Meta to reflect the company's focus away from Facebook and on building the metaverse—a virtual world where people work, play, learn and connect with their friends and family.
“We are at the beginning of the next chapter for the internet, and it’s the next chapter for our company too,” Zuckerberg explained during a 90-minute long during the company’s Connect event. This “next chapter” is not a website, app or another social network – it’s an entire new “universe”.
The announcement has left users wondering if the current problems of Facebook’s 2D world will inevitably follow us into the shiny 3D metaverse.
But why the big name change? “Right now our brand is so tightly linked to one product that it can’t possibly represent everything we’re doing today, let alone in the future,” Zuckerberg said.
Make no mistake – the name change is also a conscious bid to distance itself from the word ‘Facebook’ which has increasingly become synonymous with misinformation, hate speech, antitrust issues, privacy and safety violations.
Mark As Moses Leading us Into a Virtual Promised Land
The Biblical metaphors around Zuckerberg’s announcement are unmissable. Moses led 6 lakh Jews out of the clutches of Egypt’s tyrannical Pharaoh and into the Promised Land where he received the 10 Commandments from God atop Mount Sinai.
In 2021, Mark as a modern-day Moses appears to be leading Facebook’s 2 billion users out of the toxic social network and into the promised land – the metaverse.
Except, here Mark Zuckerberg is Moses, the Pharaoh AND God.
As the godlike figure—the owner of Meta—he aims to re-write rules of how people must interact in this ‘new frontier’ of the internet.
But what about our voices? We, the Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp users, who continue to negotiate the harmful consequences wreaked by these social media platforms?
Here, then, are 10 commandments for the upcoming metaverse to mighty Mark from us—the users and data points he has monetised to build his billions.
1.Thou shalt not Peep: Privacy
Facebook (or Meta) is reportedly investing USD10 billion to build the ambitious metaverse. In 2019, the US Federal Trade Commission fined the company USD5 billion for repeatedly undermining user privacy by deceptive means. For Facebook, every user is a data point whose personal information can be monetised for profit.
From tracking users across the internet, bugs that leaked user information to Cambridge Analytics, user data has been repeatedly compromised that harmed our privacy. The metaverse must answer and address this if it wants to be a better alternative.
2.Thou Shalt Not Weaken: Security
The data of 533 million Facebook users was stolen in a massive data breach in 2019 in what was one of the largest such security disasters. Users were left vulnerable after phone numbers, full names, locations, some email addresses, and other details from user profiles were posted to an amateur hacking forum.
In a metaverse, user data will acquire new meaning as our entire beings will be immersed in a virtual reality where not only our age and gender but our physiological responses, virtual interactions and behavioural patterns will be tracked. The metaverse must be a safer place for people.
3.Thou Shalt not Lie: Misinformation
A concern many young folks would have is having their fake news peddling and hate peddling uncle follow them from WhatsApp, Facebook and into the metaverse. If there’s one thing we can be sure of, be if the physical world or a virtual world – human beings are unlikely to stop spreading misinformation.
Zuckerberg & Co’s efforts to curb misinformation on their platform has been inadequate and fake news has meddled with elections in the United States to resulting in loss of life in India and other countries.
4.Thou Shalt Not Cheat: Antitrust
Facebook has been hauled up several times for its alleged anti-competitive behaviour where it established a near monopoly in social media by bullying and buying up its competition.
In a July 2020 US Congress hearing Zuckerberg faced fierce questioning about the company’s controversial 2012 purchase of Instagram which New York Democrat Jerry Nadler said was “exactly the type of acquisition that antitrust laws were designed to prevent.”
On Wednesday Zuckerberg said “The metaverse will not be created by one company. It will be built by creators and developers making new experiences and digital items…”
Can Zuckerberg guarantee, smaller developers in the metaverse won’t face the same bullying over the next decade that Instagram and many others faced in the last one?
5.Thou Shalt Not Hate: Hate Speech
Who is to say that hate speech won’t flourish and foment violence in a virtual world as much as it does in the real world, exacerbated by inaction of Zuckerberg & Co?
According to revelations made through the ‘Facebook Files’, Zuckerberg did not act on hate speech despite knowing of its seriousness. In India, Facebook officials intervened to prevent mitigation of communal hate speech before the 2019 elections.
6.Thou Shalt Not Look the Other Way: Content Moderation
Reuters reported that Facebook has serially neglected a number of developing nations, allowing hate speech and extremism to flourish. That includes not hiring enough staffers who can speak the local language, appreciate the cultural context and otherwise effectively moderate.
Of India’s 22 officially recognised languages, Facebook said it has trained its AI systems on five. But in Hindi and Bengali, it still did not have enough data to adequately police the content, and much of the content targeting Muslims “is never flagged or actioned,” a Facebook report said.
One expects users to interact in dozens of languages apart from English. The metaverse must not be a place where problematic content and speech goes unchecked.
7.Thou Shalt Not Drug: Social Media Addiction
Facebook is among the world’s most valuable company that built its billions selling ads by third-party advertisers. This business model is helped by Facebook’s algorithms, that research has shown, is designed to be addictive. The longer we stay engaged on the platform, the more likely we are to encounter ads and engage with them.
Metaverse, by design, is intended to lure people into spending a lot of time in the virtual world. How will Mark ensure users aren’t lured into being hooked onto it like a drug?
8.Thou Shalt Not Undermine Democracy : Profit over Safety
Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, in her testimonies said Facebook prioritises profits over safety.
“We don’t build services to make money; we make money to build better services,” the CEO said on Wednesday, in an attempt to steer away from the image Facebook built – one that profits by undermining democratic principles and user safety.
One does not grudge Facebook its profits. But Zuckerberg has evaded the pricky issue of how the profits have been gained by questionable business practices. Can the metaverse reverse that?
9.Thou Shalt Not Manipulate: Algorithms
It is a fact universally established that algorithms aren’t neutral. Facebook trains its AI on the vast amounts of data on its users to allow companies to advertise their products to those who are most likely to buy it. Similarly, they are deployed to keep users online and engaged for as long as possible.
Subtle features like infinite scrolling and push notifications keep users hooked. Personalised recommendations use data not just to predict but also to influence our actions and behaviour.
Researchers and whistle blowers like Haugen have explained how the social network’s algorithms generate recommendations designed to lead conservative accounts into extremist and hateful rabbit holes. Well, the metaverse is a sort of rabbit hole unto itself. How would one navigate it without getting sucked in by its manipulative algorithms?
10.Thou Shalt Not Become God: Centralisation
And finally, in the interest of the physical world (as well as virtual ones) Mark Zuckerberg should not and must not play god. Facebook and its family of products like Instagram and WhatsApp evolved into an interconnected and centralised world within the social media landscape – exerting immense control by virtue of the centralised data it held of over a billion users.
As Zuckerberg attempts to shepherd the world into a virtual one – described as the next chapter of the internet – there is little doubt that it will be shaped and moulder in his vision.
Over the last 17 years we have witnessed (and endured) how his social media vision fared. This next vision must be one where he is accountable, has strict oversight and is regulated.
(Sushovan Sircar is an independent journalist who reports on technology and cyber policy developments. His reports explore stories at the intersection of internet and society, covering issues of privacy, surveillance, cybersecurity, India’s data regime, social media and emerging technologies. He tweets @Maha_Shoonya. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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