Artist: 'Metaverse' Insta Handle Blocked After FB Name Change

Australia's Thea-Mai Baumann used the 'metaverse' handle, then suddenly got blocked
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 14, 2021 9:25 AM CST
She Was Known as 'Metaverse' on Insta. Then FB Became Meta
Facebook unveiled its new Meta sign at the company headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., on Oct. 28, 2021.   (AP Photo/Tony Avelar, File)

(Newser) – For nearly a decade, Thea-Mai Baumann, once the owner of an augmented-reality company called Metaverse Makeovers, used the Instagram handle "metaverse" to showcase her creative work. Last month, however, the Australian artist says she suddenly wasn't able to access her Insta, and she suspects Facebook's recent rebranding had something to do with it. "Your account has been blocked for pretending to be someone else" is the message Baumann tells the New York Times she received on Nov. 2 when she tried to log on.

"This account is a decade of my life and work," says Baumann, who notes she tried for weeks to get an answer from Instagram, which is owned by Meta, with no success. "That happens to women in tech, to women of color in tech, all the time." Baumann says she did touch base with an intellectual property lawyer to help her get to the bottom of things, but she didn't have enough money to mount a full-fledged investigation.

Ars Technica notes that Baumann's experience "could have a chilling effect" that causes individuals and companies to avoid social media, simply to prevent their branding from being hijacked. "Facebook has essentially unfettered discretion to appropriate people's Instagram user names," Rebecca Giblin, head of the University of Melbourne's Intellectual Property Research Institute of Australia, tells the Times. "There can be good reasons for that—for example, if they're offensive or impersonating someone in a way that causes confusion."

In essence, Giblin adds, company policy ensures that users "essentially have no rights." Once the Times got involved in Baumann's case, however, some headway was made. The paper contacted Instagram on Dec. 2, and a spokesperson soon responded that Baumann's account had been "incorrectly removed for impersonation" and apologized for the "error." Two days later, Baumann had her account back. The company ignored further questions, however, about who Baumann's account was supposedly impersonating and whether the block was linked in any way to Facebook's name change. (Read more metaverse stories.)

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