WASHINGTON — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg endured hours of prickly questioning from lawmakers Wednesday as he defended the company’s new globally ambitious project to create a digital currency while also dealing with widening scrutiny from U.S. regulators.
House Financial Services Committee’s immediate focus was Facebook’s plans for the currency, to be called Libra. Zuckerberg took pains to reassure lawmakers that his company won’t move forward with Libra without explicit approval from all U.S. financial regulators.
Still, many members of the panel appeared unconvinced.
Rep. Maxine Waters, the California Democrat who chairs the panel, said the Libra project and the digital wallet that would be used with it, Calibra, “raise many concerns relating to privacy, trading risks, discrimination ... national security, monetary policy and the stability of the global financial system.”
Furthermore, Waters told Zuckerberg, “You have opened up a discussion about whether Facebook should be broken up.”
The social media giant has sparked public and official anger at every turn, from its alleged anticompetitive behavior to its shift into messaging services that allow encrypted conversations, to its refusal to take down phony political ads or doctored videos.
The breakup specter — the worst-case scenario for Facebook and other tech behemoths — has been raised by prominent politicians, notably Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a leading Democratic presidential candidate.
The Justice Department, the Federal Trade Commission, the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee and attorneys general in several states are all conducting investigations of Facebook and other tech giants amid accusations that they abuse their market power to crush competition.