Live: Watch Mark Zuckerberg’s Libra Testimony to Congress

Doesn’t do it for you? Your cynicism is forgiven. Zuckerberg himself acknowledges that more people transacting on Facebook will help the company’s bottom line.

Perhaps you’ll respond to a more patriotic argument instead: “Libra will be backed mostly by dollars, and I believe it will extend America’s financial leadership as well as our democratic values and oversight around the world,” Zuckerberg says. Otherwise, he adds, China will take the lead on digital payments.

Libra has indeed sparked other countries to consider issuing a digital form of central bank money. China says it has accelerated its efforts and has a digital coin almost ready; others like the UK and European Union are considering similar plans. But some have questioned whether that arms race is one worth stoking, or if it matters all that much. Just because China is issuing digital yuan doesn’t mean it will catch on elsewhere.

Still, invoking China and innovation has become a popular way for tech firms to deflect regulatory concerns, especially antitrust. When David Marcus, head of Facebook’s cryptocurrency efforts, made a similar argument in front of the House Financial Services Committee in July, a number of lawmakers—especially Republicans—seized on it.

One thing many are watching for, but probably won’t get, is a compromise that would make Libra more palatable to regulators. Last week, Marcus told Reuters the association could consider ditching the currency basket and instead issue tokens for different countries, backed in the local currency. (He echoed Chris Dixon, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, another Libra Association member, who floated the idea earlier this month at Techcrunch Disrupt.)

That might assuage concerns by global regulators that Libra is trying to act like a sovereign country issuing its own money supply. But it would also undercut Facebook’s ambitions for truly global payments, making it more like other payments apps, such as Paypal or Square’s Cash. And it does nothing to dodge lawmakers’ privacy and antitrust concerns about Facebook getting into people’s pocketbooks. (Zuckerberg, by the way, still promises not to merge your financial data with your Facebook profile.)

Another possibility would be launching in specific countries—perhaps the developing nations where Facebook professes to want to help the unbanked. In his testimony, though, Zuckerberg seems to cast doubt on that idea. “Facebook will not be part of launching the Libra payments system anywhere in the world until US regulators approve,” he says. Libra was originally slated for launch in 2020, but Zuckerberg says Facebook will wait until regulators are satisfied.

How to Watch

Oh, the simple pleasures of public affairs. No streaming subscriptions or premium cable required. The hearing will be televised 10 am ET on C-Span3, which is not on many television sets but is streamable online. Or you can watch on the website of the House Financial Services Committee.

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