Facebook’s proposal to create its own digital currency called Libra has gotten a lot of basklash from global regulators. – Facebook has burned down the house over and over. – It’s been the subject of acidic U.S. congressional hearings and France’s finance minister went so far as to say that it was an assault on national sovereignty.
Officials in other countries, including China, Germany, and Italy has expressed similar concerns. Here’s what regulators are worried about. For one, lawmakers worry that Libra has the potential to disrupt the monetary system. If Libra becomes the currency for Facebook’s 2.4 billion or so users, to say nothing of other companies that might accept it, it could become a globally-significant currency. How? Libra is going to be what’s called, in crypto markets, a stablecoin. It’ll be a pegged currency that maintains, basically, a one to one value with the U.S. dollar. That’s a different model than bitcoin. Bitcoin trades freely, and its value is determined solely upon what people are willing to pay for it.
To maintain that peg, the group that will be governing this currency, called the Libra Association, will maintain a reserve. For every dollar’s worth of Libra that is created, one dollar is going to be put into the reserve. Theoretically, that means that this reserve could hold billions or even trillions of dollars’ worth of currencies and short-term securities. That is a very powerful tool in capital markets. If that money got moved around significantly from one currency to another, it could absolutely upset global markets. Now, that’s not to say that Facebook or the Libra Association is expected to do something like weaponize these reserves. However, this is the first time that, not a government, but a private company or group of private companies would have that kind of power. – Look, we don’t want it to– – Facebook and the Libra Association of companies backing the project say they are committed to working with authorities to achieve a safe, transparent, and consumer-friendly implementation of the digital currency.
Lawmakers, who are already looking into Facebook for a number of other reasons, are not comfortable with Facebook’s power. The tech company is battling scrutiny on multiple fronts, from its role in elections to privacy to even antitrust investigations. – Facebook is dangerous. They don’t respect the power of the technologies. – [Paul] Facebook’s business model, its role in spreading propaganda, and its controversial efforts to rein it in have infuriated lawmakers. – We will have to make very strong commitments so that people trust us and we will have to honor those commitments for a very long period of time to earn people’s trust. – At the core of a lot of the distrust among governments is that Facebook has been criticized for its handling of user data before, and Libra would create a traceable record of all its users transactions.
Just imagine a company being able to combine your identity, your online habits, and your spending patterns. That is an unprecedented ocean of data. At this summer’s congressional hearings, Facebook executive David Marcus said the company and the Libra Association will keep the spending data separate from the user identities. Lawmakers, of course, were skeptical of that. – I have serious concerns with Facebook’s plans. – [Paul] Regulator scrutiny is one of the reasons Libra’s viability has been called into question, and some key companies that initially backed the project have ducked out, with Visa saying its decision to work with the project in the future depends on Libra’s ability to satisfy regulatory expectations. We’ll have to wait and see if this scrutiny from regulators makes Libra stronger or ends up threatening its existence altogether.