Zuckerberg: Facebook won’t move forward with cryptocurrency without approval

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies Wednesday before the House financial services committee about the company's planned Libra cryptocurrency. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI

Oct. 23 (UPI) — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Congress on Wednesday that the social media platform won’t move forward with its Libra cryptocurrency without federal approval.

During the hearing before the House financial services committee, Zuckerberg tried to ease concerns that Facebook would attempt to skirt U.S. regulations to launch the cryptocurrency.

“Facebook will not be part of launching the Libra payments anywhere in the world until U.S. regulators approve,” he said.

Previously, U.S. regulators, including Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, expressed concern that Libra could “present issues related to “privacy, money laundering, consumer protection and financial stability.”

Regulators in France and Germany have blocked Libra.

Zuckerberg’s comments on Wednesday echoed July testimony by David Marcus, head of the Facebook subsidiary in charge of Libra, who said the entire Libra system would be fully vetted before launch.

Zuckerberg said, however, Facebook does not “expect to be leading those efforts going forward” and that the so-called Libra Association — made up of Facebook and 20 other companies — “will be driving the project from now on.”

“I believe this is something that needs to get built, but I get that I’m not the ideal messenger right now,” he said. “We’ve faced a lot of issues over the past few years and I’m sure people wish it were anyone but Facebook that were helping to propose this. But there’s a reason we care about this and that’s because Facebook is about putting power in people’s hands.”

He added that if the Libra Association voted to move forward with the launch without securing the clearances Facebook feels it needs, the company “would be forced to leave the organization.”

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Prior to the meeting, the committee noted that seven of the corporate partners who initially supported the Libra and would have served on the Libra Association have since dropped out — PayPal, Visa, Mastercard, Stripe, eBay, Marcado Pago and Booking.

Also at Wednesday’s hearing, lawmakers questioned Zuckerberg about litigation involving Facebook’s purported violations of the Fair Housing Act, how the company plans to protect users’ financial and personal information, and the company’s handling of diversity and inclusion among employees.

Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters criticized Zuckerberg for Facebook’s decision to remove efforts to combat the spread of disinformation, stating it showed that bad actors outside the country are “at it again” after Russian entities used social media in attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., also shared concerns that Facebook is permitting a “lower standard for truthfulness and decency” for politicians by deciding to not fact-check political ads.

“It is hate speech, it’s hate and it’s leading to violence and death threats in my office,” she said.

Several Democrats, including Ohio Rep. Joyce Beatty, the chair of the House financial services diversity and inclusion subcommittee, questioned Zuckerberg about racial and gender diversity among Facebook’s employees and users as well as allegations that its ad systems allowed housing companies to discriminate against minorities.

Zuckerberg said he wasn’t aware of the firm Facebook employs for civil rights, nor how many African American users are on the social network.

Beatty described Facebook’s approach to civil rights as “appalling and disgusting” and suggested the company may understand these issues better if it had “real diversity and inclusion” on its team.

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