Suddenly Facebook’s Libra is all about defending “the Free World” from China

Remember when Facebook’s Libra project — or as we like to call it, the ZuckerBuck — was just trying to “empower billions of people”; to “reinvent money”; to “transform the global economy”; and other such humble endeavours? 

Well it’s got grander ambitions now. In some ways, anyway. It doesn’t actually want to reinvent money any more — it wants to be “complementary” to existing systems and currencies. But it does want to be the defender of the Free World. The Free Western World specifically. 

David Marcus, Libra’s head honcho, was interviewed by Swiss public radio station Radio Télévision Suisse on Wednesday, and was found telling the broadcaster, in fluent French, some pretty interesting things.

You can watch some clips from the interview here. But for those of you who are not Francophone or who don’t feel like watching, we thought we’d give you some highlights. 

On China, which recently said it was ready to launch its own central-bank-issued digital currency after five years of development, Marcus seemed to be particularly animated:

China is marching towards a digital renminbi. And what is not really understood is that people think this is really just a domestic project for China. In reality it’s a far more ambitious project — a project that really wants to replace certain financial networks in the Belt and Road countries. It’s a real risk. 

He went on (emphasis ours):

What we see today on the internet is a fractioning into two internets. We have the internet of what I call the Free World, and another internet, which is an internet of surveillance, etc. And if we have the same thing happen with financial networks, where fundamentally, the US and others don’t have the ability to impose sanctions that are respected by financial systems, that creates geopolitical problems with huge consequences for the world.

That’s right, Facebook — literally the poster-child for “surveillance capitalism”; a company whose business model has centred around surveilling its users and selling the data to other companies — is going to save the world from the internet of surveillance.

Marcus explained that, contrary to what France has just said about Libra, it “is not a threat to the sovereignty of nations and to their ability to implement monetary policy”. Rather:

It’s a project that intends to be worked on collaboratively, with states, central banks and regulators — that’s why we’ve announced it so early, so that we get the feedback we need to create this network in the right way. 

Eh? Announced it so early? We thought you said it was going to be launched in early 2020, Dave? We thought it was all a fait accompli?

It does feel a little like now that regulators and governments have come out and said “Non!” to Libra — not just France but also Germany, India, and America, to name a few — there is a palpable change in tune from Marcus.

It also feels like Marcus’s rhetoric has taken on a distinctly Trumpian tone since we last analysed it. It’s worth remembering here that The Donald has publicly expressed his disdain for Libra, saying it would have “little standing or dependability” and that “we have only one real currency in the USA, and it is stronger than ever”. 

Probably the most eye-popping of Marcus’s comments was this one:

This could be an instrument of development, which allows the Free World of the Western nations to preserve the influence that in my opinion is necessary to maintain a good balance in the world. 

An instrument of development that preserves the influence of the West? Mon dieu. It all chimes rather well with a piece Claire and Izzy wrote last week: “Libra is imperialism by stealth”.

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