Mark Zuckerberg faced a grilling from lawmakers on the House Financial Services Committee over Facebook's plans for a cryptocurrency—but the questioning went beyond the Libra project to include issues like the Cambridge Analytica scandal and Facebook's record on diversity. "We aren’t perfect, and we make a lot of mistakes," the CEO admitted after criticism from both Democrats and Republicans. Rep. Maxine Waters told him that Facebook should address its many "deficiencies and failures" before proceeding with the controversial project. Some takeaways:
- "Helping drug dealers." Lawmakers from both parties expressed serious concerns about Libra and how it would be regulated, with Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman rejecting Zuckerberg's claim that it would help poor people without bank accounts, the Guardian reports. "For the richest man in the world to come here and hide behind the poorest people in the world, and say that’s who you’re really trying to help,” he said. "You're trying to help those for whom the dollar is not a good currency—drug dealers and tax evaders."
- How Facebook plans to make money. Zuckerberg told GOP Rep. David Kustoff that making money wasn't Facebook's main focus with Libra. But the company believes using it to make transactions easier will help Facebook make more money from advertising, the Verge reports. "What we basically see is when we eliminate friction for a customer buying something from a business, then the value for that business of advertising on our system goes up," he said.
- A warning about China. Lawmakers were skeptical after Zuckerberg warned that China is preparing to launch a similar project and if "America doesn't innovate, our financial leadership is not guaranteed." "I think you’ll be hard pressed to find somebody who’s more of a hawk on China in this committee,” said Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, per the Financial Times. "But this isn’t Mark Zuckerberg versus Xi Jinping."
- "So you won't take down lies?" Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of several Democrats to strongly criticize Facebook policies during the hearing, grilled Zuckerberg about the company's policy of not fact-checking political ads, ABC reports. "Could I run ads on Facebook targeting Republicans and falsely saying they voted for the Green New Deal?" she asked. Zuckerberg said he didn't know the answer "off the top of my head."
- Comparison to Trump. Some lawmakers praised Zuckerberg, including Rep. Barry Loudermilk, who compared him to President Trump, the AP reports. "You’re both very successful businessmen, you’re both capitalists, you’re both billionaires, and you’ve done very well," he said. "But I think really what you share in common is you both challenge the status quo—he calls it draining the swamp, you see it as innovation."
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