An Aussie artist had her Instagram account of ten years removed because Facebook wanted her username, according to this wild story by The New York Times.
On October 28th, Facebook announced it was changing its name to “Meta”. At the time, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg weirdly said that the name change symbolised a new era of immersive artificial reality social media technology called the “Metaverse”, which absolutely doesn’t sound like something out of Ready Player One.
Now here’s where things get wild. Thea-Mai Baumann, a Brisbane-based artist who goes by @metaverse on Instagram, was trying to log in to her account just a few days later on November 2nd when she found that it had been disabled.
Just like that, ten years of work and personal history on her profile with just over 1000 followers were wiped from the internet. All that remained was reportedly this message on her phone: “Your account has been blocked for pretending to be someone else.”
“This account is a decade of my life and work,” she told The New York Times.
“I didn’t want my contribution to the metaverse to be wiped from the internet. That happens to women in tech, to women of colour in tech, all the time.”
The artist also has an Instagram account for her hologram fashion brand named @metaversefashion. The earliest post on that account dates as far back as October 2017, years before Zuck hard-launched his rebrand and perhaps even before Facebook internally discussed the new direction.
Baumann’s account was reinstalled one month later on December 2nd after The New York Times reached out to Meta. According to the report, a representative for Instagram admitted that her account had been “incorrectly removed for impersonation”. However, they did not clarify why it had been picked up for impersonation or who exactly the account was pretending to be.
While she has her account back, this story is another reminder that on social media platforms, we don’t really have agency and power – we’re merely given the impression that we do. The conglomerates behind these machines can do what they please with what we put up and where.
As director of the Intellectual Property Research Institute of Australia at the University of Melbourne Rebecca Giblin said in the NYT report, when it comes to the ownership of our usernames and profiles, we “essentially have no rights.”
Anyway, if you need me, I’ll be hoping no big corporation decides to name themselves after @69xonehitonewonderx420. That’s MY name, not yours!