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Facebook needs to delay Libra’s launch — if it really wants to work with regulators

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Facebook, the American tech behemoth known for its “move fast and break things” motto, the mishandling of customer data, and interference in democracy, may not launch its ‘cryptocurrency’ Libra in time after all.

“In the last few years, there are a lot of important social issues that Facebook and the other big internet companies are really at the center of in society,” Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg told Nikkei, while highlighting his desire to take a “look before-you-leap approach” before launching any new technologies. 

Prior to scandals, such as the Cambridge Analytica data fiasco, the tech billionaire said Facebook’s approach had consisted of building a tool and retroactively fixing any issues if people were using it in a bad way, but recent events have shown this approach is no longer valid.

Raising eyebrows

Facebook’s plans to enter the digital currency space with the launch of Libra have stirred regulators and governments across the globe, who fear the project’s potential impact on the world’s financial system.

Facebook has so far insisted it’s planning to launch Libra in 2020 but Zuckerberg, who describes the coin as a way of involving emerging economies in the financial system, was quick to highlight the need for dialogue with regulators.

“A lot of people have had questions and concerns, and we’re committed to making sure that we work through all of those before moving forward,” he said, adding:

“Obviously we want to move forward at some point soon [and] not have this take many years to roll out […] But right now I’m really focused on making sure that we do this well.”

“Part of the approach and how we’ve changed is that now when we do things that are going to be very sensitive for society, we want to have a period where we can go out and talk about them and consult with people and get feedback and work through the issues before rolling them out,” he noted. “And that’s a very different approach than what we might have taken five years ago. But I think it’s the right way for us to do this at the scale that we operate in.”

Speed may be of the essence but…

While Zuckerberg didn’t confirm – or deny – any changes to Facebook‘s launch plans, his seeming willingness to cooperate with regulators could certainly cause serious delays, because, let’s face it, government bodies aren’t necessarily known for moving at speed.

But, in this instance, and given Facebook‘s global reach (and already troubled history), caution is most definitely necessary.

I for one am not too enthused about the prospect of Facebook creating and issuing its own digital money, but if it does, one can only hope that it would be subject to the same level of scrutiny as banks and fintechs. 

For so long, Facebook has publicly (and conveniently) maintained that it’s a technology platform, and not a publisher or a media company.

And although it’s delegated the creation and issuance of Libra to the Libra Association, it’s time for Zuckerberg‘s baby to finally grow up – because this time, there’s money involved.

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Published September 26, 2019 — 12:10 UTC