That didn’t take long.
Just a few hours after Facebook announced the details of its Libra cryptocurrency on Tuesday morning, lawmakers in Congress told the social media giant to pump the brakes.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle expressed their skepticism about Facebook’s new cryptocurrency. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California), chair of the House Financial Services Committee, told Facebook to stop development of the cryptocurrency until Congress could weigh in.
“With the announcement that it plans to create a cryptocurrency, Facebook is continuing its unchecked expansion and extending its reach into the lives of its users,” Waters said in a statement. “Given the company’s troubled past, I am requesting that Facebook agree to a moratorium on any movement forward on developing a cryptocurrency until Congress and regulators have the opportunity to examine these issues and take action.”
Facebook, along with major partners like Visa, Mastercard, and Paypal, hopes Libra can bring banking to the billions of people who currently don’t have access to financial services. For Facebook, it has the side benefit of giving users a way to buy and sell items without having to leave the Facebook ecosystem. Along with the Calibra wallet app, you’ll be able to send and receive Libra on Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp.
“We look forward to responding to lawmakers’ questions as this process moves forward,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.
But with Facebook under scrutiny after being accused of having a cavalier attitude toward personal information, lawmakers seem skeptical of Facebook’s ability to run its own currency.
“Facebook is already too big and too powerful, and it has used that power to exploit users’ data without protecting their privacy,” said Sherrod Brown, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, in a statement. “We cannot allow Facebook to run a risky new cryptocurrency out of a Swiss bank account without oversight.”
Republicans were also not fans of Facebook’s crypto plans. Rep. Patrick McHenry, the senior Republican on the House Financial Services Committee, wrote to Waters asking her to hold a hearing into the cryptocurrency.
“We know there are many open questions as to the scope and scale of the project and how it will conform to our global financial regulatory framework,” he wrote in the letter. “It is incumbent on us as policymakers to understand Project Libra.”
Libra is envisioned as a worldwide currency that seems aimed as much at rural India as it is at Americans. It’s not clear what, if any, authority the U.S. government would have over Libra. What’s certain is that Congress is going to want to have its say over a new financial system coming from some of America’s most influential companies.
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