“You can do whatever the heck you want to do—so why are you letting other people control you?” -from Astrology.com’s Libra Horoscope for June 23, 2019
As far back as a decade ago, when it was growing at a head-snapping pace but was yet to conquer the world, Facebook had already begun to make the idea of borders as we know them less relevant. A few years later, it became clear to me that Facebook was going to replace the twentieth-century notion of a nation-state, and thus, it would eventually bring itself in conflict with existing nations and legislative bodies.
Fast forward to the present. A lot of what I theorized — either in my writings, conversations or commentary — has become an unpleasant reality. With over 2 billion people attached to Facebook, the entity and its online manifestation behaves just like a nation would. It has its tribes. It has its malcontents. It has its criminals. It is as wonderful, flawed, and scary as all of us. But what has made it worse is that the leaders of this nation have only been interested in its citizens as revenue generators — and they have been willing to do whatever it takes to control the collective attention and maximize its focus on advertising.
Not surprisingly, it turns out that there’s more to the plan. This week, Facebook made its next move as a virtual nation. It launched its own currency. If you read the commentary about Libra, the company’s innocuous-sounding attempt to inject itself into the financial fabric of our planet, you can see that it is a first step toward creating a new fiat currency and subverting existing ones. It is amazing chutzpah from a company that is less trustworthy than a rattlesnake in your living room.
So what do I think about Libra? Honestly, I don’t have an opinion yet. There are more questions than answers. The entire announcement lacks clarity, which is typical of Facebook. The company is sneaky in how and what it reveals. That is how they continue to fool so many smart people again and again. Once more, they have cobbled together a coalition of the willing — those who are gullible enough to believe Zuck and his acolytes. They have forgotten the lessons of gaming companies, app developers and media companies that were led up to the brink and then casually pushed over. What’s more, even some of the usual Facebook skeptics have bought into the company bullshit.
For what it’s worth, Facebook’s Calibra subsidiary ripped off the logo of another financial technology startup, proving yet again that bad habits are hard to change. Of course, Libra’s claims that there aren’t scalable global blockchains are also an exaggeration. Libra itself is a ripoff of Stellar, which is an open source project working to solve the problem that Facebook wants to solve: banking the unbanked.
Still, before I let my final opinion form, I am currently in the process of reading as much as I can find — and I suggest you do the same. Educate yourself, and decide what you think about Libra. To help get you started, here are a handful of articles that I recommend. Most of them are written in the language of normal people, and not cryptocurrency experts.
- Facebook’s Libra vs. The U.S. dollar: Fantastic read from New York magazine writer, Max Read, who points out that the domination would start in an innocuous manner with Indian users on WhatsApp.
- How Libra makes Facebook almost a nation: Nice piece by Syracuse University assistant professor Jennifer Grygiel.
- Jameson Loop explains how Libra is supposed to work: Really great explainer from someone who knows what they are talking about.
- Facebook’s Crypto Strawman: Alex Danco has written my favorite piece on the topic so far.
- Hurdles for Libra: Stanford Law professor Joseph Grundfest on what lies ahead for the proposed cryptocurrency.
- And Fortune takes a look at its privacy implications.
This first appeared on my weekly newsletter dated June 23, 2019. If you like to get this delivered to your inbox, just sign-up here, and I will take care of the rest.