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Under Pressure

Ocasio-Cortez to Zuckerberg: 'You won't take down lies or you will take down lies?'

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg struggled to answer questions about Facebook’s past practices.

xinhua-photos-of-the-day Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. PA Images PA Images

FACEBOOK CEO MARK Zuckerberg faced some tough questions from US lawmakers yesterday as he attempted to build support for the company’s online currency. 

Zuckerberg struggled to answer questions about Facebook’s past practices and plans for fact-checking ahead of the US presidential election in 2020. 

In a much-anticipated appearance on Capitol Hill, Zuckerberg said that Facebook hadn’t yet perfected how its new cryptocurrency Libra will work. 

“We clearly have not locked down exactly how this is going to work yet,” Zuckerberg told members of the House Financial Service Committee.

“The goal of Libra is to build a global payment system rather than a currency.”

Several lawmakers also took the occasion to question the trustworthiness of the world’s largest social network with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez peppering Zuckerberg with questions about what Facebook allows on the platform.

“In order to make a decision about Libra, we need to kind to dig into your past behavior and Facebook’s behavior with respect to our democracy,” Cortez said, referencing the Cambridge Analytica scandal. 

In one exchange, Cortez sought to determine to what extent politicians could lie on Facebook in paid advertisements. 

“So, you won’t take down lies or you will take down lies? I think that’s just a pretty simple yes or no,” she said. 

In response, Zuckerberg said that voters should be able to “see for themselves” the statements of politicians. 

Tweet by @CSPAN CSPAN / Twitter CSPAN / Twitter / Twitter

Lawmakers did not hold back in their harsh criticism of Facebook’s data practices and doubts about Libra in particular.

“It would be beneficial for all if Facebook concentrates on addressing its many existing deficiencies and failures before proceeding any further on the Libra project,” Representative Maxine Waters, who chairs the panel, said at the opening.

On Twitter, Waters ramped up her criticism of Facebook and pledged to block the digital currency plan.

“No one is above the law including Mark Zuckerberg,” Waters tweeted.


On Facebook’s plans for Libra, Zuckerberg said that he may be open to scaling them back. 

He acknowledged that Libra could be limited to digital payment systems using individual currencies — a less ambitious plan than creating a new coin linked to a basket of major currencies.

“I personally am much more focused on being able to help innovate and build a global payment system than I am in any specific makeup of what a currency or reserve might look like,” he said.

facebook-libra-currency Zuckerberg is followed by Facebook vice-president for global affairs Nick Clegg. Niall Carson / PA Images Niall Carson / PA Images / PA Images

Libra is backed by an alliance of companies in a nonprofit, Swiss-based association, but some lawmakers are skeptical about the project, and want Facebook instead to focus on data privacy.

Zuckerberg repeated his pledge that the digital coin would not launch without full regulatory approvals and added that Facebook would quit the alliance if it launches prematurely.

Asked whether Libra could simply be linked to the US dollar, Zuckerberg said “the community is fairly split on this point.”

He said that it could be far simpler from a regulatory perspective but that “it may be less welcome in other places if it’s only 100 percent based on the dollar.”

- With reporting by © – AFP 2019

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