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Facebook rushed Meta because of bad press and it shows, early Facebook investor says

November 3, 2021, 1:23 PM UTC

Facebook was rushed into the Meta rebrand to deflect press from whistleblower Frances Haugen’s testimony that the social media giant disregarded user safety in the pursuit of profit, early Facebook investor Roger McNamee said.

“In the absence of Frances Haugen I don’t think there is a chance that Facebook would have done this rebranding or this emphasis on the Meta now,” McNamee said Wednesday at the Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal.

McNamee was referring to the recent rebrand of Facebook’s parent company to Meta, which CEO Mark Zuckerberg claims will encompass the work the tech giant has done in building out a VR-enabled “metaverse.” McNamee calls the timing of the announcement opportunistic and says it was something Facebook’s leaders were forced into by Haugen’s claims in “an attempt to change the subject.”

“It did not work,” he added.

Roger McNamee was an early investor in Facebook and was played a key role in such decisions at Facebook as turning down Yahoo’s buyout offer for $1 billion dollars in 2006, as well as its hiring of Sheryl Sandberg in 2008. He invested $210 million in the firm in 2009, just two years before its IPO.

His feelings for the company changed over time as he came to believe that Facebook profited by manipulating consumers—even saying that “Facebook is terrible for America“. Now one of the biggest critics of the company, McNamee called the Meta demo “embarrassing” and said there was nothing in the rebrand that hasn’t been available to the market for a long time.

Clegg’s claims

The news goes against earlier claims made at the Web Summit by Meta’s VP of global affairs and communication Nick Clegg, who said that Facebook considered delaying the Meta rebrand in light of the so-called ‘Facebook Papers’—the internal documents Haugen gave the U.S. congress—but believed it was the right time to go ahead with the announcement to “come clean about the focus of the company, building towards the Metaverse.”

Speaking virtually, Nick Clegg instead pointed fingers at Apple, noting the company merited “a considerable amount of scrutiny, too.”

McNamee agreed that other companies needed more scrutiny and called for greater regulation in the tech market over safety and privacy measures, arguing the tech industry is operating with as little oversight as the food and drug industry did in the 1900s.

He notes big tech has no other responsibility than to optimize shareholder value, claiming Mark Zuckerberg is only acting in that interest as he is incentivized to do.

McNamee closed the Meta-discussion by saying that the rebrand was an attempt to insulate Zuckerberg from responsibility and accountability. “It worked at Google and it may work for Facebook,” McNamee said.

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