A billion-dollar tech corporation may have tried to block this Sydney artist’s social media account because of the name Metaverse.
Sydney artist Thea-Mai Baumann was the victim of a pretty big-if-true zucking back in October. She almost lost a decade’s worth of her work, when her Instagram, sporting the handle Metaverse, was flagged, and disabled.
Five day’s after Facebook announced its name change to Meta, Baumann was locked out of her account, and although it’s unconfirmed whether the Zuck was behind the block – it’s all a little fishy.
This feels like a plotline dredged from the pages of a 2010’s YA fantasy fiction novel.
Evil corporate tech CEO wants to create an augmented reality where we’re not just looking at the internet, but we’re in it – the Metaverse. Haphazardly, Zuckerberg may have trampled on the life’s work of an unassuming local Sydney artist in his pursuits.
Baumann started Metaverse Makeovers in 2012. It’s a concept that takes real-world fingernail designs and sees them come alive through pop-up holograms, visible through the Metaverse app. Think Pokémon Go, but with nail art (although, this was years before Pokémon Go came on the market).
The company’s Insta handle @metaverse garnered some attention when the Facebook announcement occurred.
Strangers were offering to buy the handle from her –“You are now a millionaire,” one person commented on her account. There were faint warnings of the future to come as well: “yall think they really gonna buy it? facebook owns instagram, so they are just gonna take it.”
On November 2, Baumann tried logging in to Insta, but was met with the slightly concerning news that her account had been disabled: “Your account has been blocked for pretending to be someone else.”
Attempting to verify her identity with Instagram, weeks went by without a response, and the Sydney artist was left fraught with anxiety:
“This account is a decade of my life and work. I didn’t want my contribution to the metaverse to be wiped from the internet,” Baumann told the NY Times. “That happens to women in tech, to women of color in tech, all the time,” she added.
After a whole month, the account was finally restored after media reached out to the company on Baumann’s behalf. She herself never heard from the social media conglomerate. Where’s your common courtesy, Zuck?
Social media is a scary terrain – currently filled with questions of balancing corporate social responsibility with censorship, and how to govern the immense power of these companies.
“Facebook has essentially unfettered discretion to appropriate people’s Instagram user names,” Rebecca Giblin, director of the Intellectual Property Research Institute of Australia at the University of Melbourne said.
Whether you think this is a good or a bad thing, it’s definitely a scary but telling insight into the power these companies have in, and over, the world as we know it.