WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Facebook wants to get into the money business, announcing last month that it plans to create its own cryptocurrency, but the idea is getting a lot of pushback on Capitol Hill.
“What could possibly go wrong?” a sarcastic Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., asked.
He was among the lawmakers from both sides of the aisle who spent more than two hours at a Tuesday Senate hearing grilling a Facebook executive about the plan. They don’t trust the social media giant to do what’s best for consumers.
“Facebook asks people to trust them with their hard-earned paychecks. It takes a breathtaking amount of arrogance,” Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said, also calling the venture “delusional.” “Facebook has demonstrated through scandal after scandal that it doesn’t deserve our trust.”
Facebook said its proposed currency, dubbed Libra, would help the more than 1.7 billion people in the world who don’t have bank accounts, but lawmakers said they fear Facebook could abuse user data for profit.
“We’ve made mistakes in the past and we have been working and are continuing to work really hard to get better,” Facebook executive David Marcus, who’s leading the project, assured lawmakers.
He said the company has safeguards in place to protect users’ privacy.
“I will commit, again, to do what it takes to address these concerns,” he said.
Gaining trust could be an uphill battle. Facebook has few allies in Washington. The Trump administration has argued that the undetectable nature of the currency will enable money laundering and other crimes.
“This is indeed a national security issue,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said.
He said that if Facebook wants to act like a bank, it should be regulated like one.
Sen. Brown said lawmakers will demand a regulatory structure and could pass legislation to block Facebook’s plan if they aren’t satisfied with security.
Facebook will be back in the hot seat Wednesday for another round of questioning from a House committee.