The Financial Times has reported that Facebook will aim to launch its Libra proprietary cryptocurrency ‘as early as January 2021’, in what could mark a significant change in how the social media platform monetises and interconnects its Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram brands.
The news source cited ‘three people working directly with the project’, which to date Facebook has kept under close wraps due to political scrutiny, with the tech giant choosing not to confirm any speculation on Libra developments.
During the summer of 2019, Facebook released its initial blueprints of ‘Project Libra’, revealing its ambitions to develop an ‘independently-secured stablecoin’ to enable monetary transactions for its 3.5 billion global users.
The project, personally signed-off by company founder Mark Zuckerberg, would see Facebook establish it’s Libra Association’ as the independent blockchain-based organisation that monitors Libra’s currency structure, rules, auditing and developer policies.
Facebook’s announcement of Libra garnered immediate global headlines and political scrutiny, becoming the first tech-giant to declare its support of developing a cryptocurrency which is free of government regulations.
Forming its initial Libra Association, Facebook announced a raft of payment partners which had committed to carrying Libra stablecoin transactions including PayPal, eBay, Stripe, MasterCard and Visa.
However, following 2019’s US Senate hearings on Big Tech’s growing antitrust concerns. Facebook partners soon ended their support of Libra, as a bruised Zuckerberg could not vindicate to senators how Libra would be governed and secured amid a raft of Facebook privacy and security issues which the company had failed to address.
US senators accused Zuckerberg and Facebook’s executive team of ‘breathtaking arrogance’, in proposing its plans to launch a cryptocurrency without any formal oversight by financial authorities, who held concerns that US tech giants had already cornered a number of digital markets disrupting competition.
Meanwhile, the European Union stated that Libra plans had not disclosed how the cryptocurrency would be detached from Facebook’s technologies functioning as an independent currency.
Reviewing Libra’s stablecoin proposals, EU ministers underlined that Facebook platforms would hold a significant advantage on how the cryptocurrency could be utilised, as platforms could match users personal and advertising data to influence Libra purchases – a benefit granted to no other fiscal currency.
In his October testimony, Zuckerberg guaranteed Senators that Libra would not be launched anywhere in the world without obtaining approval from US regulators.
As it stands, Swiss financial watchdog FINMA has been the only regulatory agency to back Libra’s development, which will allow the a ‘limited use’ stablecoin to be tested by the ‘Libra Association’ within a Swiss market remit.
Meanwhile tech speculation remains as to whether Facebook will continue to pursue its development of a currency-backed stablecoin which must clear burdensome regulatory hurdles to ensure any end-user utility.