One of the complex issues at hand here is the difference between Libra –
the cryptocurrency platform, which is open source – and Calibra, Facebook’s
specific service, known as a wallet, that it is building onto the Libra
David Marcus can honestly tell Senators that Libra is a
democratic, open system over which Facebook does not have control.
But that’s not the full picture: Calibra very much is
Facebook’s product, and by virtue of the fact it will be backed by the world’s
biggest and most powerful social network, it will become the dominant
force in global cryptocurrency.
As one Senator put it, “you’re not doing this
for fun”. Expect more scrutiny on how Facebook will leverage its power to push
Calibra to come soon.
All of the hearings this week are broadly focusing on whether the tech
giants have too much power over competitors, freedom of speech and, maybe in
future, the global banking system.
One warning put forth by Facebook’s Mr Marcus, and
one we will likely hear repeated often in the other hearings, is that if these
Silicon Valley giants aren’t allowed to innovate, others will.
By that, he of
course means China, where tech companies are said to be eyeing their own
It may prove to be a good one – Facebook and its
Silicon Valley peers may not be held in particularly high esteem by Washington
right now, but it could be the lesser of two evils.