- REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
- A US congressman claimed Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency “may do more to endanger America” than 9/11.
- At a House hearing on Facebook’s plans on Wednesday, Brad Sherman was intensely critical of the tech giant’s proposal to create a digital currency.
- Since its announcement in June, Libra has faced broad skepticism from lawmakers.
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US Congressman Brad Sherman said that Facebook’s proposed Libra cryptocurrency “may do more to endanger America” than the September 11th terror attacks that killed almost 3,000 people.
At the House of Representatives hearing on Facebook’s digital currency plans on Wednesday, the Democratic representative from California made extraordinary claims about the purported dangers of the $578 billion company’s efforts, and suggested that the Osama Bin Laden-masterminded attack was the “most innovative thing this century.”
“This is the biggest thing – or it tries to be the biggest thing this committee will deal with this decade. And while we have one of his employees here, this is Zuckerberg’s program,” Sherman said at the hearing.
“We’re told by some that innovation is always good. The most innovative thing this century is when Osama bin Laden came up with the innovative idea of flying two airplanes into towers. That’s the most consequential innovation, although this may do more to endanger America than even that.”
David Marcus, the head of Facebook’s cryptocurrency efforts, has been testifying before the House and the Senate about the company’s plans to build a digital currency (Libra) and accompanying digital wallet (Calibra), following its announcement in June.
The announcement has been met with broad skepticism from lawmakers, with many asking why Facebook should be trusted to build an experimental new financial system given its track record of scandals – from its role in the spread of hate speech that fueled genocide in Myanmar to Cambridge Analytica’s misappropriation of 87 million users’ data.
Maxine Waters, chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services that Marcus appeared before on Wednesday, has repeatedly called for Facebook to abide by a moratorium on all development until lawmakers and regulators are satisfied – something the company has not agreed to. (Marcus has said Facebook won’t launch Libra until it has satisfied the relevant regulators’ concerns.)
Still, Sherman’s language is likely the most provocative and emotionally charged criticism of Libra by a lawmaker yet. Sherman opted not to ask Marcus any questions, instead spending his five minutes tearing into Facebook’s project uninterrupted.
“People call this the Libra … no-one is going to call it a Libra. They’re going to call it a Zuck Buck,” Sherman said, arguing it could undermine the power of the United States dollar and aid criminals.
“[Marcus] promises that all the know-your-customer and anti-money-laundering is going to be adhered to. That only applies to the Calibra wallet, and he hopes to have hundreds of other wallets create by others … The Libra protocol does not link accounts to real-world identity, a user is free to create multiple accounts by generating multiple keypairs, so this is a godsend to drug dealers and sanctions evaders and tax evaders.”
He added: “Someone with an understanding of the politics of this country needs to explain to Mr. Zuckerberg that if cryptocurrency is used to finance the next horrific terrorist attack against Americans, 100 lawyers standing in a row charging two thousand dollars an hour are not going to protect his rear end from the wrath of the American people. This is an attempt to transfer enormous power from America to Facebook and a number of its allies.”
On Tuesday, Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland likened the Libra Association, the nominally independent organization that will oversee Libra, to “Spectre” – the villainous organization from the “James Bond” series.
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