Disclaimer: This article will be updating live for the duration of the Oct. 23 hearing. Please check in for the latest from the hearing.
In a much-anticipated meeting of politics and tech, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has finally made his way to United States regulators. He will be testifying before the House Financial Services Committee on Facebook’s Libra. The planned stablecoin has been the subject of much controversy since it’s June whitepaper. Days after, Chairwoman of the committee Maxine Waters called for a moratorium on Libra’s development.
According to Zuckerberg’s prepared remarks released yesterday, he plans to assure the committee that Facebook will not launch Libra anywhere in the world without having satisfied U.S. regulators. Expect the representatives of the committee to be skeptical of this claim.
10:07 The Hearing begins
Chairwoman Maxine Waters began the hearing by calling the committee to order. Rep. Waters’ skepticism of Facebook’s intentions are well-documented.
In her opening remarks, Representative Waters suggested that the best course of action would be “if Facebook concentrates on addressing existing deficiencies and issues before proceeding with Libra.” The Chairwoman named staff discrimination, anti-trust concerns, consumer trust, and the 2016 elections as preeminent among these.
Ranking Member Patrick McHenry began his comments by declaring that “Today is a trial on American innovation.” In a comment on modern dependence on technology, he noted that most of the members of congress were checking their phones “right now.” To Zuckerberg: “Fair or not fair, you’re here to answer for the digital age.”
10:21 Zuckerberg’s opening remarks
Following an appeal the vast global unbanked, Zuckerberg said that “The financial industry is stagnant. There is no digital financial architecture to support the innovation that we need.” He went on to say “I don’t know if Libra is going to work, but I believe in trying new things.”
10:25 Questioning begins
In her questions to Zuckerberg, Chairwoman Waters referred to an earlier ban on cryptocurrencies on Facebook, accusing the company of changing its tune only when it realized how much it could dominate the market.
Rep. McHenry’s line of questioning began by asking about China, especially concerned with the rise in China’s technology companies. Zuckerberg: “Today, 6 out of 10 of the top tech companies are coming out of China and certainly don’t share our values.” This seems to play into a longer-term argument that Libra is the U.S.’s best chance against China’s crypto development. McHenry pushed the question, however: “Why not just do a Facebook version of Alipay?”
Switching back to domestic regulator concerns, Rep. Mahoney asked Zuckerberg what he meant by approval from all U.S. regulators, given the number of agencies and entities in play. “We’re committed to getting all of the appropriate approvals,” Zuckerberg answered.