Facebook recently announced plans to launch its own digital currency, called Libra.Facebook users could purchase Libra and then use it to buy products, make payments, and transfer money directly through the site. The service is scheduled to launch in 2020, and Facebook already has big financial players lined up as sponsors, including Visa, Mastercard and PayPal. But getting Libra off the ground may be difficult, based on almost universal skepticism from Capitol Hill and the White House.
Facebook's plan to develop its own currency comes after the company has faced criticism for sharing and exposing users' private info, and even seeking technology to predict users' future movements. At a Senate Banking Committee hearing this week, Facebook's head of currency David Marcus told lawmakers Libra will help businesses and the economy by easing users' access to millions of companies. "As more people have access to the services and products of those 19 million businesses, then more commerce will happen," Marcus testified.
But lawmakers of both parties were not impressed. Arizona Senator Martha McSally (R) responded quickly to Marcus' comment about increasing commerce. "That's a wonderful public good that you guys are committed to," she retorted, adding "that was extremely sarcastic." Sen. McSally also scoffed at Marcus' assertion that Facebook will protect the privacy and financial data of Libra users. "How do we know that this isn't going to change, and how do we know you're going to actually do that, based on your track record of failing and violating and deceiving in the past," McSally asked.
Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown (D) echoed McSally's skepticism about Facebook's promises. "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," said Sen. Brown.
The resistance to Libra extends beyond Congress. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin expressed concerns that the currency could be exploited and used by money launderers or terrorist financiers. And last week, President Donald Trump criticized cryptocurrencies in general, arguing their value is based on thin air.