It would be a universal, stable currency that people could access from their smartphones and send around the world for cheap. It could increase access to financial services for people who can’t afford bank fees and minimums.
But, that shining vision for Libra is clouded by a big concern: Facebook is behind it.
Criticisms of scandal-ridden Facebook dominated this week’s House and Senate finance committee hearings on Libra, indicating the social media company is the biggest hurdle to bringing the currency to life.
“Distrust of Facebook is a pretty universal feeling here,” Sherrod Brown, the senior member of the Senate Committee and an Ohio Democrat, said during the hearing.
Lawmakers don’t trust Facebook, because of its data leaks and enabling of election tampering and misinformation. Experts say they’re right to be skeptical. Libra, they say, centralizes power in the hands of Facebook and a relatively small number of other entities in an association based in Switzerland.
Lawmakers fear Facebook’s large audience would drive rapid adoption of digital currency, perhaps supplanting the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.
Although other cryptocurrencies still have relatively few users and require some technical know-how to use, Facebook would make Libra accessible on tools billions of people use everyday, including Facebook, WhatsApp and Messenger. And the company is expert in simple user experience.