When Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg want something, they usually don’t let them anything get in their way. That’s why an Australian artist with the Instagram handle @metaverse had her account blocked after Facebook changed its name to Meta. 

Back in October, Facebook announced that it was changing its name to Meta, reflecting its focus on the metaverse, or the future of the internet.

That spelled trouble for Thea-Mai Baumann. The Brisbane artist and technologist had been using the Instagram handle @metaverse for almost a decade, an account that documented her life and work, as per the New York Times.

After Facebook’s announcement, she knew she was in a precarious position. Messages started filtering in from strangers. “You are now a millionaire,” one person wrote on her Instagram account. “Fb isn’t gonna buy it, they’re gonna take it,” warned another.

In November, that’s what happened. Baumann tried to log in to her account but found it had been disabled. “Your account has been blocked for pretending to be someone else,” a message read.

She repeatedly tried to verify her identity with Instagram to no avail. “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 explained. “That happens to women in tech, to women of color in tech, all the time.”

One month later, NYT contacted Meta to discover why Baumann’s account had been shut down. An Instagram spokesman responded that it had been “incorrectly removed for impersonation,” adding “we’re sorry this error occurred.” Just two days later, Baumann’s account was back online.

Baumann, to her credit, has been reflective about the ordeal. She plans to incorporate it into an art project she started in 2020, Pst_Lyfe, which is about death in the metaverse. She also wants to do all she can to ensure that the metaverse becomes the inclusive place she hopes it can be.

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