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Facebook's Zuckerberg Defends Currency Plan as Lawmakers Bring Hate Speech, Privacy, Other Concerns to Table

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a House Financial Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, on Facebook's impact on the financial services and housing sectors. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Steven Skancke, chief economic advisor at Keel Point, and a former staff member at the US Treasury Department appeared on Thursday's edition of CBN's Newswatch to discuss the stock market, the economic effect of San Francisco's travel ban, and the possible breakup of Facebook and other tech companies. Newswatch is seen weekdays on the CBN News Channel.  For a programming schedule, click here

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was grilled for hours by lawmakers Wednesday at a congressional hearing.

He defended the company's new globally ambitious project to create a digital currency while at the same time dealing with widening scrutiny from US regulators.

It was Zuckerberg's first testimony to Congress since April 2018. His appearance was aimed to promote a cryptocurrency project Facebook has developed known as Libra. 

Zuckerberg reassured lawmakers that his company won't move forward with Libra without explicit approval from all US financial regulators.

Rep. Maxine Waters, (D-CA) who serves as the chairwoman for the House Financial Services Committee, 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."

Democrats have sided with the Trump administration over their concerns about the payment system. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and other regulators have publicly criticized the Libra plan. They have also warned that digital currency could be used for illicit activities such as money laundering or drug trafficking.

Waters also told Zuckerberg, "You have opened up a discussion about whether Facebook should be broken up."

The breakup possibility — the worst-case scenario for Facebook and other tech behemoths — has been raised by prominent politicians, notably Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a leading Democrat 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 the competition.

Steven Skancke, chief economic advisor at Keel Point, and a former staff member at the US Treasury Department told CBN News that he thinks Facebook and other big tech companies will be broken up. 

"We see bipartisan support -- Democrats and Republicans -- in Congress who are concerned about the size of big tech," he explained. "And the fact that they've had Facebook up before Congress repeatedly. There's a general sense that they've just gotten too big and they haven't been particularly good corporate citizens."

Representatives also grilled the 35-year-old social media entrepreneur over his company's record on hate speech, privacy and fake political ads. 

"You plan on doing no fact-checking on political ads?" asked Waters. 

"Chairwoman, our policy is that we do not fact-check politicians' speech," Zuckerberg replied. "And the reason for that is that we believe that in a democracy, it is important that people can see for themselves what politicians are saying. Political speech is some of the most scrutinized speech already in the world.

Waters then asked, "Do you a fact check on any ads at all?" 

To which Zuckerberg replied, "Yes." 

Under continued criticism of Facebook's handling of hate speech and potential incitements to violence on its site, he said, "We're not perfect. We make a lot of mistakes."

Facebook announced earlier this week they took down several bogus accounts from Russia and Iran that were posing as political groups, spreading misinformation. 

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