The cryptocurrency of the social network ignites alarms in central banks around the world. Facebook has long since lost the trust of the world. It has been a long time since it wants to be a country. The company of Mark Zuckerberg tries to connect two vertices that repel each other as magnetic charges of different sign. But what physics denies is replaced by ambition, which is as immense as an ocean without a shore.
The social network aims to become a rich, overpopulated nation, with nearly 2.4 billion users (adding WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger) to inhabit its digital land. A geography connected 24 hours a day that transforms a torrent of billions of data into floods of money; a new superpower born of technology, not the geopolitics of man.
Zuckerberg woke up 18 months ago with that dream: Since then, at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, a team has worked secretly to recreate the economic and social identity of a country: its currency. The result is the pound forge.
A cryptocurrency that the social network plans to launch in 2020 backed by 27 companies, including Visa, Mastercard and Uber, and that can be a geostrategic and financial Trojan horse. If the 2,400 million users of the platform use this cybermoney to buy and send money (as is done in PayPal or WeChat) could become the largest financial institution on the planet.
If every Western saver allocated a tenth of its funds to the pound, it would be worth two trillion dollars. The dawn of a colossus – and its destabilizing potential – in the bond market. “This currency is a big word and you have to manage yourself in areas of great caution,” warns Emilio Ontiveros, president of AFI. “It’s as if a new, powerful state issued a currency that was among the ten most important in the world.” A currency that also holds the ability to yield the monetary sovereignty of weak nations.
The cryptocurrency of Facebook and its partners hide inside a “ticking” that exceeds the limits of the economy. Because, until now, the way in which money and payments are structured was the exclusive function of democratic institutions, not of the great technological ones.
These days, regulators are wondering if the old tools of economic policy will serve to control these giants. Usurped the functions, the red lights are inflamed. “All the central banks of the world will oppose Libra and Mark Zuckerberg, who has a net wealth of 73.6 billion dollars, can take the risk of doing so. However, it has ample opportunities to lose out”, reflects Guillermo de la Dehesa, honorary president of the Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) in London.
For now, the caution warned by Ontiveros extends. The Bundesbank warns of the “return to the Wild West within the monetary system” and the Bank of England approaches “with an open mind but not with an open door”. A distrust that permeates the owners themselves. “I worry that Libra will do to the financial industry what Facebook did to privacy and public debate,” warns Jonas Kron, senior vice president of the investment firm Trillium Asset Management, which has some 53,000 shares of the social network.
Does Facebook lack the virtue of patience? Its old motto “Move fast and break things” reveals its relationship with society and the hours. Scarce, very few will defend “the most terribly irresponsible actor of the technological panorama”, qualifies Enrique Dans, professor of IE. So, what will be left behind so much broken porcelain din?
Regulators will probably slow down the entry of pound into mortgage loans, loans, the purchase and sale of shares. “However, the threat to the transfer business is already there,” says Ontiveros. A danger that rehearses its borders.
“The currency works well as a means of payment but it is not a risk for the dollar. Because behind is the weight of the American taxpayer and the greatest military power in the world, “says Miguel Otero Iglesias, principal investigator of the Elcano Royal Institute. A battle that neither Zuckerberg would dare to give.