Zuckerberg defends Facebook currency project, admits he's not 'ideal messenger'

Zuckerberg arrived at Congress for Wednesday's hearing
Zuckerberg arrived at Congress for Wednesday's hearing Copyright REUTERS
By Jason Abbruzzese with NBC News Tech and Science News
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Mark Zuckerberg's statement provides the clearest indication yet that the Libra digital currency project announced earlier this year faces an uphill battle.

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Wednesday that the Libra digital currency will not launch in the U.S. or anywhere in the world without approval from U.S. regulators.

"Even though the Libra association is independent and we don't control it, I want to be clear. Facebook will not be a part of launching the Libra payment system anywhere in the world, even outside the U.S., until the U.S. regulators approve," Zuckerberg said in the opening statement of his testimony before the House Financial Services Committee.

Zuckerberg's statement provides the clearest indication yet that the Libra digital currency project announced earlier this yearfaces an uphill battle.

The project quickly raised red flags for regulators around the world.Many committee members have already voiced concerns over Libra.

David Marcus, who heads up Facebook's role in Libra, was grilled by the committee in July.Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., solicited questions on Twitter for the hearing.

Facebook first announced the project in June along with a nonprofit group based in Geneva that would oversee its development.

Initial plans put the currency on track to be available in the first half of 2020. The project included a coalition of 28 backers and was touted as a way to bring banking to the millions of people who are underserved by the global financial system.

But the project has encountered skepticism in the business, technology and regulatory communities. It has also lost some of its biggest partners including eBay, Mastercard, Visa and PayPal.

Facebook faces scrutiny and pressure from a variety of politicians and regulators. The federal government, as well as most states,is investigating the company for possible antitrust violations. 

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has called for the company's break up.Facebook and Zuckerberg have also been criticized for the recent decision to allow politicians to run ads on its platforms that contain false or misleading information.

Former Vice President Joe Biden's Democratic presidential campaign called for Facebook to take down ads from President Donald Trump's campaign that it said contained false claims about Biden.

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