Facebook executive David Marcus faced questioning from Senate lawmakers on Tuesday, during a Banking Committee hearing on the company’s Project Libra cryptocurrency. The hearing highlighted the skepticism many public officials have expressed about the company, its trustworthiness, and the potential risk Libra could pose to the world’s financial system.
That skepticism was on full display when Democrat Sherrod Brown offered his assessment of Facebook’s trustworthiness. According to Reuters, Brown said:
“Facebook has demonstrated through scandal after scandal that it doesn’t deserve our trust. We’d be crazy to give them a chance to let them experiment with people’s bank accounts.”
Republican Senator Martha McSally echoed those sentiments, and pointedly told Marcus, “I don’t trust you guys.” She also referenced the company’s many recent controversies and suggested that Facebook should be focused on fixing those issues rather than creating a new business model.
Those controversies include Facebook’s well-publicized misuse of consumer data, failures to protect user privacy, and issues related to fake accounts during the 2016 election. Senators used the hearing on Tuesday to also address concerns about Libra’s potential misuse by money launderers, terrorists, and countries seeking to avoid U.S. sanctions.
Republican Senator Tom Cotton was also concerned about how political bias might impact Facebook’s new payment system:
“Your CEO, in testimony before Congress, referred to Silicon Valley as an “extremely leftwing place.” That’s why so many center-right voices have concerns about censorship on platforms like Facebook, and also Twitter, Google, and so forth. I worry about the possibility that a digital wallet and digital currency like Libra could extend that into the payment system.
There is reason to worry about that, because Democrat members of this committee have made a habit of contacting major financial institutions to encourage them not to do business with, say, gun manufacturers or with government contractors who serve ICE or Customs and Border Patrol. What safeguards, if any, will Libra have to ensure that you treat on par people with views that maybe disfavor an extremely leftwing place like Silicon Valley?”
Marcus responded by acknowledging Silicon valley’s bias, while also claiming that Facebook is a company that welcomes ideas “from across the political spectrum.” He also suggested that people would be free to use the Calibra wallet to “do what they want with their money” – as long as they have a “legitimate use.”