The guy who just last week tried to claim his data sieve social network could have prevented the Iraq War is at it again. And by “it” I mean talking out of his ass in public.
“Libra will be a global payments system, fully backed by a reserve of cash and other highly liquid assets,” Zuckerberg wrote in prepared remarks he plans to deliver—in whole or in part—before the House of Representatives’ Financial Services Committee tomorrow. The cause for his upcoming visit is, you may have guessed, Libra, the cryptocurrency Zuckerberg proposed in June and which the financial institutions of nearly every developed nation saw as a direct challenge to their sovereignty and a privacy nightmare for users whose personal and financial data might now be collated in Facebook’s vast dragnet.
“There’s a reason we care about this. Facebook is about putting power in people’s hands. Our services give people voice to express what matters to them, and to build businesses that create opportunity. Giving people control of their money is important too. A simple, secure, and stable way to transfer money is empowering,” Zuckerberg wrote, although it’s difficult to imagine anyone takes him at face value anymore. “Over the long term, if it means more people transact on our platforms, that would be good for our business. But even if it doesn’t, it could help people everywhere.”
It’s not exactly clear who, if anyone, actually needs Libra, or why it needs to be a blockchain-based project when digital financial tools like Paypal already exist. And lawmakers aren’t alone in their skepticism of the project’s strategy, stated goals, or Zuckerberg, Libra’s de facto figurehead. Since being announced less than six months ago, some of the heaviest hitters of the “Libra Association” have pulled out, Mastercard, Visa, Stripe, eBay, and the aforementioned Paypal among them.
In the cryptocurrency parlance, Libra is intended to be a “stablecoin,” meaning a digital token of certain value, more like money than the stock-like Bitcoin or Etherium, which have limited utility while wild swings in their worth fuel speculation. One of the most famous of these stablecoins is Tether, which has also been at the center of a slow trainwreck of a scandal, where it’s suspected of lacking the assets to back its presumed value of one U.S. Dollar per token. “Libra will be fully backed by a reserve of cash and other highly liquid assets,” Zuckerberg notes, without stating what those other assets might be.
In an effort to, I don’t know, scare Congress into giving him permission to undermine the Federal Reserve, Zuckerberg summons the specter of China as a crypto-boogeyman, writing that, “while we debate these issues, the rest of the world isn’t waiting. China is moving quickly to launch similar ideas in the coming months.” That’s entirely true, although the reason China is reportedly sprinting towards a digital currency of its own was the announcement of Libra’s potential encroachment.
Zuckerberg’s very next line makes clear China had every reason to fear the impact of a world-wide, company-owned, unaccountable monetary system: “I believe [Libra] will extend America’s financial leadership as well as our democratic values and oversight around the world. If America doesn’t innovate, our financial leadership is not guaranteed.”
The extension of democratic ideals is better known as statecraft, something Zuckerberg, who is not an elected official, has no business dealing in. And frankly, given that America’s own politicians tend to spread democracy worldwide with terrific acts of violence, it’s something we should maybe slow the fuck down on, in general.
As Libra loses the trust of regulators and business partners alike, Zuckerberg promises Facebook “will not be part of launching the Libra payments system anywhere in the world until US regulators approve.” But of course, what the world’s most powerful social network says and what it does rarely align.
Zuckerberg is slated to begin dodging questions and otherwise wasting everyone’s time around 10 a.m. Eastern tomorrow.