Facebook Libra has been in the news a lot lately. This cryptocurrency was envisioned as a so-called stablecoin. Libra was designed carefully to avoid the huge fluctuations faced by cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. The plan was to offer a more stable currency, backed by stable securities. Sponsors like Visa, Mastercard, and Paypal seemed just about ready to get on board with the project.
However, by late October, they had all pulled their backing off the table. eBay, Stripe, and Mercado Pago were other potential sponsors who didn’t quite come through. Why the loss of confidence? Many aspects of Libra have been too up in the air for too long. In particular, Facebook’s role in the project opened it up to special concerns.
Facebook was famously always the social network that required real names. With Libra, if they offered anonymity, it could create liabilities. The platform could attract lots of black market activity and scams. However, if Libra were too closely linked to people’s Facebook profiles, it could cause problems in terms of privacy issues. The social network has alarmed consumers when it comes to data already.
Asking Facebook’s end users for access to financial details could really increase their risk exposure. If the two services were too closely linked, any data breach to either network could prove devastating for everyone involved. The idea of the low-volatility securities backing the stablecoin also seems overly optimistic in the wake of the 2008 recession.
Perhaps most importantly, Facebook is already facing calls for increased regulation. These are coming from powerful political figures, including candidates for the US Presidency like Elizabeth Warren. Entering the world of currency will almost definitely lead to more government scrutiny. For one thing, governments need a stable currency and don’t want people to use an alternative that undermines theirs. For another, Facebook has already been implicated in election tampering.
Critics of Libra point out that there are already better ways to do many of the things Facebook claims this currency will solve. Solutions like Ripple follow the rules set in place by the federal government. They’re already used to facilitate payments internationally at reasonable costs. There seems to be no real way that Libra would do the same thing at a lower cost, or with more efficiency.