During today’s US House Committee on Financial Services hearing on Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency, Facebook representative David Marcus refused to say whether political commentator Milo Yiannopoulos, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, and other banned Facebook users would be allowed to use Libra.
He was questioned on the topic by Congressman Sean Duffy during a hearing titled “Examining Facebook’s Proposed Cryptocurrency and Its Impact on Consumers, Investors, and the American Financial System.”
Marcus is the CEO of Facebook’s Calibra subsidiary which focuses on financial services and will provide the wallet that allows people to use Libra so he will be one of the influential players when it comes to who can and cannot use the cryptocurrency.
Duffy’s first question was “Who gets to use Calibra and Libra?”
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Marcus dodged the question by saying:
“So any, anyone that can open a Calibra account, go through KYC [Know Your Customer], in, in countries where we can operate.”
While the answer is phrased to make it seem like anyone can use Calibra, the statement “anyone that can open a Calibra account” means that Facebook could still prevent users from opening a Calibra account and essentially dictate who is allowed to use Libra.
Duffy seemed to pick up on this and started to talk about how everybody can use a $20 bill and that it doesn’t discriminate against anyone, including murderers and people who say horrible things. He then moved back to Libra and asked if Yiannopoulos or Farrakhan can use the cryptocurrency, specifying that he brought these people up because they were both banned from Facebook.
Marcus refused to answer the question outright and said:
“We must be thoughtful about those issues Congressman, so I’m trying to respond appropriately.”
He then followed this by talking about how Facebook “accepts ideas from across the political spectrum” while protecting its users from “hate speech” before being cut off by Duffy who was getting frustrated with the evasive answers.
Duffy continued to press Marcus for a yes or no answer on whether Yiannopoulos or Farrakhan would be able to use Libra, with Marcus ultimately saying:
“I don’t know yet Congressman.”
Duffy then changed his line of questioning to the sale of guns, saying that the sale of lawful guns happens all across America yet on Facebook, gun sales are prohibited. He followed this by asking whether a gun dealer would be able to use Libra.
Marcus responded by saying:
“So this is a question that is really important to get right Congressman and we haven’t written a policy yet.”
Duffy went on to say he fears that Facebook is building a similar system to China’s social credit system with Libra where users will only be allowed to use the cryptocurrency if they meet Facebook’s social standards and that he believes every law-abiding citizen should have access to Libra.
Marcus followed up on Duffy’s remarks by saying:
“Personally I believe that we shouldn’t be in the business of telling what people can do, deciding what people can do with their money or not but that being said, this is an important question and we need to be thoughtful about the policy.”
Duffy predicted that Facebook will get major pushback if it decides to dictate who is allowed and not allowed to use Libra and finished by saying:
“The freedom and liberty that comes from the $20, I think you should offer that same freedom and liberty on your network.”