Facebook’s Libra is not looking good. Paypal, Mastercard, Visa and even E-Bay have pulled out of the Libra Association. This comes after the hurdles Facebook needs to overcome in order to meet regulatory compliance. This tells us just how difficult it is to build blockchain-based solutions that offer cryptocurrency as payments. It seems easy on paper to draft a proposal to gather some of the world’s leading companies to form a system for digital and cryptographically secure payments.
The following have been some of the criticisms thrown at Facebook from members of the US Senate (Senators Sherrod Schatz and Brian Brown) in a letter sent to CEOs of Visa, Mastercard and Stripe.
“We are concerned because key questions remain unanswered about the risks the project poses to consumers, regulated financial institutions, and the global financial system. We urge you to carefully consider how your companies will manage these risks before proceeding.”
The senators continue with this warning:
“Facebook is currently struggling to tackle massive issues, such as privacy violations, disinformation, election interference, discrimination, and fraud, and it has not demonstrated an ability to bring those failures under control. You should be concerned that any weaknesses in Facebook’s risk management systems will become weaknesses in your systems that you may not be able to effectively mitigate.
All this seems to have influenced the decisions of Libra Association members from dropping out of the project. Facebook is not exactly trustworthy when it comes to data privacy and security after revelations of their involvement with Cambridge Analytica and selling user data to third party without full consent. This makes the situation even more difficult with so much opposition from within the US government.
Libra aims to serve the unbanked and provide a fast and reliable way to make electronic payments using Facebook’s ecosystem. This is actually a major undertaking because of its potential to open up the cryptocurrency market to mass adoption. What is at stake here are Facebook’s 2+ billion users along with its social media platform Instagram and messaging application WhatsApp. Those who joined the Libra Association were viewing this as a major business opportunity to tap the market which this creates with Facebook’s users. Users would use the Libra token which they can access from the Calibra digital wallet to make payments, using WhatsApp.
The opposition seems to stem from the impact this would have not just on the US economic and financial system, but the world as well. This is because other countries also do not have a favorable look on Libra. In essence, Facebook would become a bank that would not be regulated by jurisdiction like the US SEC if it were allowed to operate. That can also threaten major banks around the world who could lose their customers to Facebook. With the ease of payments and money transfers, Facebook could definitely facilitate the unbanked all over the world. All they will need is their smartphone or computer to open Facebook and they have access to their digital money.
That would be unfair to other financial institutions, who are regulated and follow jurisdiction compliance. Why should Libra have no regulation when it is doing the same type of business as banks and financial service companies. What Facebook probably didn’t realize is the reason cryptocurrency are better off decentralized without any central authority. Bitcoin has been around for more than 10 years now because it has no owner or actual structural organization. It is truly decentralized in its governance. Despite being associated with Satoshi Nakamoto, no one can come after him because he remains anonymous. Perhaps Facebook is too late in realizing this is how you build a cryptocurrency.
The cryptocurrency community is also not that favorable of Libra, though some are open minded to the idea. Those who look in favor like the idea because it could open up the cryptosphere to more people. Libra would be the on-ramp to other cryptocurrency so it is a gateway so to speak. The more die hard cryptocurrency supporters don’t even consider Libra as a true cryptocurrency running on a real blockchain. It is basically just another form of electronic cash pegged to fiat that uses a digital ledger technology (DLT) that is highly centralized. The purpose of a true blockchain with a cryptocurrency is to be a trustless and permissionless decentralized system.
The odds seem stacked up against Facebook and their Libra Association. The good thing about this is that Facebook is realizing the potential of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. They must meet regulatory compliance in order to proceed. The Libra Association is still intact, but they will need Facebook to meet compliance in order to get approval. The stakes are high, and there is big money to be made behind this. What is clear here is that the US SEC is making it clear that in order to play you have to follow the rules. It is now up to Facebook if they can meet those requirements.