As if Facebook and Project Libra do not have enough to worry about after two weeks of vociferous bashings from government officials across the globe, now four separate consumer groups have banded together and penned a letter condemning Libra and urging its 28 members and owners to withdraw from the project.
The consortium of consumer advocacy groups is comprised of the Open Markets Institute, Public Citizen, the Revolving Door Project, and the Demand Progress Education Fund. Their letter simply states:
We call upon you as respected members of the business, financial, technology, and civil society communities to collectively withdraw from the Libra project.
The group also noted in its letter that Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) had expressed during Tuesday’s Senate Banking Committee hearing that the Libra member/owners also had reservations going forward:
Members of the consortium actually have lots of questions too, similar to the questions that are being offered on this dais and they have great reservations about moving forward but they don’t want to be left out because of Facebook’s market power.
The four groups represent a cross-section of concerned individuals, as these snippets from their respective websites convey:
- Open Markets Institute uses journalism to promote greater awareness of the political and economic dangers of monopolization;
- Public Citizen is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that champions the public interest – your interests – in the halls of power;
- The Revolving Door Project is an effort to increase scrutiny on executive branch appointments and ensure that political appointees use their office to serve the broad public interest, rather than to entrench corporate power or seek personal advancement;
- The Demand Progress Education Fund, among other things, works to eliminate the corrupting influence of big money in politics and reform the financial system in order to ensure our democracy for everyone, not a tool for wealthy interests to rig the game.
These four public advocacy groups are obviously not fans of big corporate power or its ability to influence public policy overtly for its own personal gain. Project Libra’s Whitepaper makes a point of wishing to serve the estimated 1.7 billion of under-banked individuals across the globe, but the consortium takes issue with this singular goal:
Achieving a laudable goal should not be cheapened with a project whose aims are in fact unclear and whose leadership structure is based on fear.
As for the goal to serve the world’s under-banked populations, we reported elsewhere that: “David Scott (D-Ga.) suggested that this goal could become a Libra “Achilles’ heel”. He noted: “One of the big reasons why many consumers are unable to access financial services is due explicitly to a lack of identifiable proof of identification.” If Libra was to comply with all KYC/AML legislation, which requires proof of identification via some acceptable form, then it is unclear at this time as to how Libra would achieve this goal.”
As for the “fear” aspect, the group counseled the member/owners to resist any intimidation:
We understand that Facebook is a powerful company, and that it has in part generated a climate of fear with its market dominance. But if you collectively withdraw from the project, it will signal that the just-beginning era of digital money will be based on fair rules and democratic deliberation, and not intimidation by the powerful.
Of the four advocacy groups, one, however, stands out as having been more vocal than the others regarding the potential machinations of Facebook in the marketplace. Robert Weissman, the president of Public Citizen, has been opposed to the social media giant’s global cross-border payment aspirations, and he actually accused Facebook of being a “cartel” at last week’s hearing before the House Financial Services Committee.