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Zuckerberg: Don’t worry, we expected policymakers to resist Libra

October 1, 2019
Mark Zuckerberg walking in the hall of the Russell Building on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC.
Mark Zuckerberg walking in the hall of the Russell Building on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC.Associated Press

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told his employees not to worry about the backlash the company’s digital plans have received from policymakers because the real action is going on behind the scenes.

The news: In leaked comments from a July meeting with Facebook employees, published by The Verge, Zuckerberg assured them that despite public resistance from policymakers, Facebook was making progress by meeting with regulators privately.

Move slowly and try not to break things: Zuckerberg said Libra was just one of a number of projects that “touch very socially important aspects of society,” and that the company’s plan is to “have a more consultative approach” with regulators than it has in the past. Finance in particular is a “very heavily regulated space,” and “we kind of expected” the process to be “a long road,” he said. “There’s a lot of important issues that need to be dealt with in preventing money laundering, preventing financing of terrorists and people who with the different governments say you can’t do business with.”

The public/private divide: David Marcus, who heads the digital currency project, faced a grilling by skeptical lawmakers during two congressional hearings in July. But those hearings were overly dramatic, according to Zuckerberg. Facebook’s “private engagement” with regulators is often “more substantive and less dramatic,” he is heard saying in the leaked audio. “And those meetings aren’t being played for the camera, but that’s where a lot of the discussions and details get hashed out on things.”

He may be right. We already know that Facebook has a strong lobbying force in DC, which it recently bolstered with new hires who will focus on Libra. But he’s also right that it might be a long road. Given all the regulatory issues yet to be ironed out, don’t be surprised if Libra misses its 2020 launch target.

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