There may be another reason Facebook changed its name to Meta. The social media company is the “the worst company of 2021” in the results of an audience survey conducted by Yahoo Finance.
The poll, which surveyed 1,541 readers, saw Facebook receive 8 percent of the total votes for the ignominious distinction.
Respondents were polarized in their assessments of the tech company and expressed contradictory reasons for their disdain. Conservatives and dissidents expressed frustration with the tech company for being overly censorious and discriminating against their views. However, progressives often complained that the company did not go far enough in its efforts to eradicate perceived misinformation, with many claiming that the company was inadequately suppressive of skeptical views regarding the pandemic and the 2020 presidential election.
Conservatives and social media watchdogs, however, have supplied plenty of evidence of the comapany’ suppression of views it disagrees with.
Last September, Facebook fell under scrutiny for The Facebook Files, a series of investigative reports published by the Wall Street Journal and based on leaks provided by whistleblower Frances Haugen.
Much of the publicity around the leaks focused on the impact of Instagram (a subsidiary of Meta Platforms) on teenage girls, and the company’s alleged indifference to those concerns. Haugen also alleged that Facebook’s potential for radicalization has contributed to genocides in Myanmar and Ethiopia, among a myriad of other concerns expressed in the reports.
Additionally, the company has been under the scrutiny of antitrust regulators for several years. Last year, the Federal Trade Commission and the attorneys general of 48 states sued Facebook for alleged violations of antitrust laws. That particular case against the company was dismissed as legally insufficient, but the lawsuit is still pending as the court considers dismissing the case outright.
Perhaps owing to this negative publicity, Facebook rebranded the parent company which oversees its platforms as Meta Platforms last October. The new name coincides with Zuckerberg’s increasing emphasis on the concept of the “metaverse,” a concept in which the internet would be presented as a simulated, three-dimensional world accessible through virtual reality. The proposed Facebook metaverse has been no less controversial, with critics calling it everything from ridiculous to dystopian.
Still, Meta’s stock value has seen 22 percent growth in the past year—lagging somewhat behind the S&P, but hardly a crisis for investors. For strictly financial concerns, Meta appears in much better shape than the second-place finisher for worst company of 2021: the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, which has seen its stock price plummet by over 50 percent after a tumultuous year of harassment by the Chinese Communist Party.
However, Facebook has seen itself dogged by controversy since its inception, and this has not deterred it in its rise to become an information powerhouse. It is thus unclear whether such negative publicity will serve as a significant deterrent to the company, which still persists as a leader in social media even despite the ensemble of negative publicity it has received.