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Zuckerberg to face criticism over cryptocurrency, other issues

Jim Saksa, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- A conciliatory-sounding Mark Zuckerberg will face questions Wednesday about Facebook's world-altering ambitions from congressional critics of both parties.

Democrats and Republicans are expected to interrogate the Facebook CEO over the plan to launch Libra, a cryptocurrency pegged to a basket of global currencies and managed by a consortium of multinational corporations, as well as the company's role in the spread of political propaganda, alleged violations of housing legislation, dominance of online advertising, monetization of users' data and censoring of right-wing media.

Zuckerberg is appearing before the House Financial Services Committee. Asked what he wants to hear him say, Ohio Republican Rep. Warren Davidson said, " 'I repent of my sins, and look forward to going forward and sinning no more.' "

California Democrat Rep. Brad Sherman has said that Libra "may do more to endanger" the nation than 9/11.

In written testimony released Tuesday, Zuckerberg apologized for Facebook's transgressions and said he would wait for federal permission before moving Libra forward. "Even though the Libra Association is independent and we don't control it, I want to be clear: Facebook will not be part of launching the Libra payments system anywhere in the world until U.S. regulators approve."

But it's unclear whether such promises will mollify lawmakers, who have heard similar pledges from Facebook in the past without seeing a corresponding change in business conduct.

 

The proposed cryptocurrency would be overseen by the Libra Association, a collection of about 100 corporations and nonprofit organizations. Its value would be pegged to existing currencies. A Facebook subsidiary, Calibra, would run a digital wallet, or payments system, to let consumers and businesses make transactions in Libra.

Given Facebook's global reach -- an estimated 1.5 billion users daily -- Libra's announcement in June led to an immediate rebuke from elected officials, including President Donald Trump, House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, plus European central bankers and financial regulators.

Facebook and Libra's other backers seem to have not anticipated the blowback against a proposal that, by its own marketing, would "Reinvent money. Transform the global economy. So people everywhere can live better lives."

Zuckerberg attempted to dial back those transformative ambitions in his written testimony, saying Libra is"not an attempt to create a sovereign currency."

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