An Instagram user with the handle @metaverse last month found herself blocked from her account, which featured a decade of her life and work – after parent company Facebook changed its corporate name to Meta.

On 28 October, Facebook, which owns Instagram, kept the social media platform Facebook so named but changed its umbrella corporate name to Meta – signaling an effort to reflect the virtual world that the tech giant considers the future of the internet.

On 2 November, Thea-Mai Baumann, an Australian artist and technologist, suddenly found her account disabled, the New York Times first reported.

A message flashed on her screen: “Your account has been blocked for pretending to be someone else.”

Baumann said she tried to verify her identity with Instagram over the next few weeks but received no response.

“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 outlet.

“That happens to women in tech, to women of color in tech, all the time,” the artist, who is of Vietnamese descent, added.Advertisement

Baumann started her Instagram account in 2012 to document her life as an arts student in Brisbane and the augmented reality company that she went on to create, called Metaverse Makeovers.

According to its website, describing wearable “appcessories”, the company’s Metaverse Nails offering “is the only product in the world that allows you to adorn your digital and physical self with customisable holograms. It’s glam wearable tech.”

A month after Baumann first appealed to Instagram to get her account restored, the New York Times contacted Meta on 2 December to ask why Baumann’s account had been shut down. According to an Instagram spokesperson, the account had been “incorrectly removed for impersonation” and would be restored, which it was, two days later.

“We’re sorry this error occurred,” the company added.

Despite getting her account back, Baumann remains worried about the future of the metaverse, a still-mostly-hypothetical virtual world accessed by special virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology.

“Because I have been working in the metaverse space for so long, 10 years, I just feel worried.”

She is afraid that its culture could be “corrupted by the kind of Silicon Valley tech bros who I feel lack vision and integrity”, she said.


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