October 21, 2021

So, what do you think?

FaceSpace? MyBook? BookFace? Squid Game?

Facebook with a line through it? Like this: Facebook.

Facebook is changing its name. But can it change its reputation?

First, the big news. The Verge’s Alex Heath reported late Tuesday night that Facebook will change its name next week in a rebranding of the company. Heath wrote, “The coming name change, which CEO Mark Zuckerberg plans to talk about at the company’s annual Connect conference on October 28th, but could unveil sooner, is meant to signal the tech giant’s ambition to be known for more than social media and all the ills that entail. The rebrand would likely position the blue Facebook app as one of many products under a parent company overseeing groups like Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus, and more.”

Heath added, “​​A rebrand could also serve to further separate the futuristic work Zuckerberg is focused on from the intense scrutiny Facebook is currently under for the way its social platform operates today.”

Facebook’s goal here? Well, as Record’s Shirin Ghaffary writes, “There’s still a lot we don’t know, including what exactly Facebook’s new corporate name will be. The Verge indicated it will connect to the company’s focus on the ‘metaverse,’ a developing digital platform enhanced by augmented and virtual reality where people interact through digital avatars.”

But there’s more here, right? Facebook desperately needs a rebrand after weeks (months? years?) of controversy and relentless criticism. This name change comes in the wake of a whistleblower saying Facebook spreads hate and disinformation and knows it. The Wall Street Journal has run a series of stories about Facebook’s issues. The social media giant has been compared to Big Tobacco — preferring profits over people.

Yahoo technology editor Daniel Howley wrote, “Facebook’s upcoming name change, however, could serve an alternative purpose beyond signaling the company’s dive into the metaverse. It could also serve to separate the larger corporation from the controversies that have spun out of its Facebook and Instagram apps.”

CNN’s Charles Riley wrote, “A rebranding could be part of an effort to overhaul Facebook’s reputation following a tsunami of bad news linked to misinformation on its platforms, content moderation failures and revelations about the negative effect its products have on some users’ mental health.”

But a name change doesn’t change everything. Or, really, anything.

Quartz’s Samanth Subramanian wrote a story with the headline: “Facebook doesn’t need a new name. It needs new people.”

Subramanian wrote, “Last year, Facebook earned $86 billion. It can certainly afford to pay more people to pick out and block the kind of content that earns it so much bad press. Is Facebook’s misinformation and hate speech crisis simply an HR crisis in disguise?”

CNN’s Brian Stelter also weighed in on air.

So what should Facebook’s new name be? BuzzFeed News’ Katie Notopoulos has some fun suggestions, including “Definitely NOT Facebook.”

Heath, who broke the story for The Verge, wrote, “I’m told that the new Facebook company name is a closely-guarded secret within its walls and not known widely, even among its full senior leadership. A possible name could have something to do with Horizon, the name of the still-unreleased VR version of Facebook-meets-Roblox that the company has been developing for the past few years. The name of that app was recently tweaked to Horizon Worlds shortly after Facebook demoed a version for workplace collaboration called Horizon Workrooms.”

In the end, as we speculate about the future of Facebook, keep in mind something Ghaffary wrote: “But one thing this rebrand makes clear is that despite the massive challenges Facebook is facing, it isn’t slowing down or staying in a defensive crouch. It still has its sights set on expanding its domination and world-building, which is what it’s trying to achieve with its metaverse plans.”

John King talks about his surprising announcement

In Wednesday’s newsletter, I wrote how CNN’s John King revealed on air that he has multiple sclerosis. King joined CNN’s “New Day” on Wednesday to talk about his illness, and said he had not planned on announcing it on air, but felt the need to when talking about the importance of people getting vaccinated against COVID-19. He noted that no one knows if the person next to them in the grocery store is immunocompromised.

King was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 13 years ago, but first felt the effects as far back as the 1990s. Before Tuesday, only a dozen people close to him were aware of his diagnosis. He said it was a “mistake” to keep it so secret because maybe he would have been able to help those also living with MS.

“It’s a challenge, it sucks,” King said. “Every day it’s with me in some nagging way. Some days it’s with me in more profound, challenging ways. You fall down. You can’t pick things up.”

But, he considers himself lucky because his MS has progressed very slowly and his condition is less severe than many others.

King revealed that last November’s election week was one of his worst weeks. “I was having a lot of trouble functioning,” King said.

That’s remarkable considering King’s tireless work during election week was deservedly praised by media observers.

I encourage you to watch the interview. It’s about 12 minutes long, and all of it is important and compelling.

Answering the questions

Good for NewsNation’s Dan Abrams for calling out Fox News’ Will Cain after Cain used the death of Colin Powell to ask a bunch of questions about the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. Powell was vaccinated and died of complications of COVID-19, but he was immunocompromised because he had multiple myeloma. Ken Meyer of Mediaite, which is run by Abrams, has more of the details and the video of Abrams in his completely on-the-money criticism of Cain.

Cain was following the Tucker Carlson playbook of, “Hey, I’m just asking questions here.” Cain asked things such as, “Does this tell us anything about the effectiveness of the vaccine?” and, “What does it mean that Powell was fully vaccinated?” and, “What does fully vaccinated mean?”

Abrams let Cain have it, saying on his “Dan Abrams Live” show, “Does he really not know the answer to these questions?” and pointing out at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website addresses such questions in their frequently asked questions (!) section.

Abrams asked a good question of his own: “Is asking someone to just spend a minute to look it up too much to ask?”

Abrams then showed more clips of Cain asking questions whose answers are available. Abrams closed by saying, “The world isn’t out to get you, Will. But they may ask you just to do a little homework. Just a little at first.”

Anyone can ask questions. Journalists get answers. But, let’s be honest, the purpose of Cain’s questions really wasn’t about getting answers.

New Opinion series

Tom Morello performing in 2019. (Amy Harris/Invision/AP)

One of the world’s best guitarists has joined The New York Times’ Opinion section. Well, for a limited time.

Tom Morello — known for his work with Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, and for his solo work — is writing a limited-run Opinion series that will offer his perspective on music, politics, race and more.

In a statement, Morello said, “I was the only Black kid in an all white town, the only anarcho-syndicalist at a conservative high school, the only spandex clad heavy metal guitarist at Harvard University, and the only Star Trek loving Ivy League nerd rocking some of the world’s biggest stages and on off days dodging tear gas at the barricades. I firmly believe that both the pen and the guitar can serve as a battering ram for justice.”

Times Opinion editor Kathleen Kingsbury said, “Through his music, Tom Morello has spent more than three decades starting conversations about vital social and political questions and solutions, including police brutality, racial inequality and corporate responsibility. It’s exciting to showcase Tom’s deep intellect and unique vantage point in both music and society in the Opinion report.”

Morello’s first piece — “Songs of Justice, Songs of Power” — debuted Wednesday.

This is part of the Times’ launch of subscriber-only newsletters, which it describes as “a collection of more than 15 new and existing News and Opinion newsletters available only to Times subscribers.”

Who raided Sinclair?

Earlier this week, the Sinclair Broadcasting Group, which operates TV stations around the country, was hit with a ransomware attack that shut down several stations. Now analysts are saying that the hacking tool used in the attack was previously used by a Russian crime group once sanctioned by the U.S. government.

CNN’s Sean Lyngaas wrote, “The crime group, known as Evil Corp, is believed to be primarily motivated by money, and known for flaunting its ill-gotten wealth. US authorities have previously accused it of stealing $100 million from victims around the world in part by accessing the victims’ bank account login information.”

Bloomberg News’ William Turton first reported the possible connection to Evil Corp.

Lyngaas wrote, “Though Evil Corp is thought to be mostly interested in making money, the Treasury Department in 2019 slapped sanctions on alleged members of Evil Corp and accused the group’s leader of providing ‘direct assistance to the Russian government’s malicious cyber efforts.’”

Media tidbits

Actor Michael Keaton, right, talking with “60 Minutes” correspondent Jon Wertheim. (Courtesy: CBS News)

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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  • Nowhere in this breathless take on Facebook’s name change, is there a critical recognition of why companies historically have played this propagandistic shell game: to dilute and disguise its culpability for damage and losses. If truth and accuracy were the prime determinants for rebranding (they’re not) it would be called Cancer. It succinctly captures the essence of its defining characteristics: it is the product of exposure to, and consumption of something that at one time people were told was not just safe, but good for them; like cancer, Facebook (and its digitally genetic social media variants) thrives by high jacking and exploiting a natural and healthy human function; it is directly linked to human mortality; humanity would be better off without it, but a global cure seems like unlikely. If Facebook and its corporate chimeras are cancer, then it falls to real journalists to be the clinicians, throwing everything we have at it. That includes conducting a close examination of the corrosive and damaging effects wrought on the weakest of those infected, not amplifying a narrative that a proven vector for real harm with no conscience or accountability, can be rendered less threatening by changing its name.