Facebook found itself in the hot seat on Capitol Hill once again on Tuesday. This time the social media company was grilled by the Senate Banking Committee in a hearing on its proposed digital currency, Libra.
Members of Congress could not make it any more clear: they don’t trust Facebook.
“Facebook is dangerous,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, opening the hearing. “Like a toddler who has gotten his hands on a book of matches, Facebook has burned down the house over and over and called every arson a learning experience.”
Libra is currently being developed by Facebook with the goal of creating a blockchain-based token that can be instantly transferred via services like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. The company also launched Calibra, a subsidiary focused on making Libra-related products such as a digital wallet.
“Like a toddler who has gotten his hands on a book of matches, Facebook has burned down the house over and over …”
Brown continued by citing Facebook’s data privacy failures, such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the spread of fake news on its platform, foreign interference during the 2016 election, and the role the social network played in the genocide in Myanmar.
“We would be crazy to give them a chance to experiment with people’s bank accounts, to use powerful tools they don’t understand like monetary policy to jeopardize hardworking Americans’ ability to provide for their family,” continued Brown.
Head of Calibra David Marcus spoke for Facebook. He stressed that social media giant doesn’t control the currency. Instead, that would be done by a non-profit, the Libra Association — which he said would abide by U.S. financial regulations even though it’s headquartered in Switzerland.
Derision of the project was a bipartisan affair, as Democrats and Republicans alike declared their skepticism of Facebook’s intentions.
Republican Sen. Martha McSally sarcastically quipped about the “public service” Facebook was providing after Marcus explained that the company’s business model was to spur more ecommerce with Facebook advertisers.
“I don’t trust Facebook,” stated McSally. “Instead of cleaning up your house you are starting a new business model.”
In response to questions regarding Facebook’s trustworthiness, Marcus heavily emphasized the fact that the Libra Association would eventually have 100 members entrusted to manage the project. Visa, Mastercard, Uber, eBay, Spotify, and Coinbase are some of the current 28 founding members.
He also resigned to accepting his salary in Libra after being pressed on the matter repeatedly, but relayed that replacing a bank account wasn’t the purpose of Calibra.
Unfortunately for the social media company, there were no distracting “meme-worthy” moments where a Congressperson found themselves in over their heads while discussing technology. The senators’ questions centered on Facebook’s less-than-stellar reputation — issues Congress is quite familiar with at this point — and not so much cryptocurrency or blockchain technology.
It’s unlikely that Tuesday’s hearing eased any of their concerns about the project. A second Congressional hearing on Libra is scheduled for Wednesday.
“They moved fast and broke our political discourse, they moved fast and broke journalism, they moved fast and helped incite a genocide, and they moved fast and they’re helping to undermine our democracy,” said Brown.
“Now Facebook asked people to trust them with their hard-earned paychecks. It takes a breathtaking amount of arrogance to look at that track record and think, you know what we really ought to do next? Let’s run our own bank and our own for-profit version of the Federal Reserve. Let’s do it for the whole world.”