During a recent hearing before the Senate Banking Committee, Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) grilled a representative from Facebook about online censorship, financial blacklisting, and its Libra currency. He questioned what the progressive tech giant would do when a consumer wished to use Libra to subscribe to Breitbart News as opposed to a left-wing publication.
During a recent Senate Banking Committee hearing, Sen. Tom Cotton grilled Facebook executive David Marcus over the company’s new Libra cryptocurrency and how it could be used as a tool for censorship. Cotton noted that Silicon Valley, in general, tends to lean to the left and questioned how conservatives can ensure that their rights are protected when using Facebook’s new currency.
Cotton addressed Marcus stating: “Mr. Marcus, thank you for your appearance and your testimony. Your CEO in testimony before Congress referred to Silicon Valley as, “an extremely left-wing place.” That’s why so many center-right voices have concerns about censorship on platforms like Facebook but also Twitter, Google and so forth. I worry about the possibility that a digital wallet and digital currency like Libra could extend that into the payment system.”
He continued: “There is reason to worry about that because Democrat members of this committee have made it a habit of contacting major financial institutions and encouraging them not to do business with say, gun-manufacturers or with government contractors who serve ICE or the Customs and Border Patrol. What safe-guards, if any, will Libra have to ensure that you treat on par people with views that may be disfavored in an extremely left-wing place like Silicon Valley?”
Marcus responded by stating: “I appreciate your question Senator, and you’re right that Silicon Valley tends to have a bias, but I want to reaffirm that Facebook is a technology company where ideas across the political spectrum are welcome and treated equally. And as far as Libra and the Libra wallet is concerned, we wanted to ensure that people, as long as they have a legitimate use of the product, can do what they want with their money. Of course, there are some restrictions and regulated products, but my commitment to you is we will be thoughtful in writing those policies, and we will be happy to follow up with you when we get closer to finalizing those policies.”
Cotton argued that Facebook’s promise doesn’t seem like much of a guarantee stating: “So that doesn’t sound like much safe-guard to me, other than a commitment before you come into pressure from Democrats—and just wait until tomorrow when you go before the House Financial Services Committee. If you think the Democrats in this committee have hounded banks, wait until you see what you’re in for over there.”
Cotton then pointed out that Facebook, which already has a history of censorship against conservatives, will face pressure to financially blacklist conservative organizations like Christian bakers and Breitbart News when consumers want to use the Libra currency with such organizations.
“So a federally-licensed firearms dealer wants to sell firearms at a gun show,” Cotton continued: “or maybe a neighbor wants to sell a shotgun to his neighbor, or a Christian baker wants to practice his faith when he bakes his cake, or someone wants to pay a subscription to, say, Breitbart instead of the New York Times—what confidence can people who have center-right views have that Libra is going to be available to them on an equal basis as those who want to shut down gun-retailers, or shut down oil-pipelines, or government contractors who are working with immigration and customs enforcement?”
Marcus replied that Facebook had rules in place in relation to firearms but failed to outline any actual safeguards for ensuring a lack of censorship of conservative users, instead promising that Facebook would be “very thoughtful.” Marcus stated: “Senator, firearms, for instance, are a regulated product and are already regulated and treated as such on the Facebook platform, and I know it’s a complicated issue. When it comes to writing this policy, again, I’m committing that we will be very thoughtful. I have to say that as far as I am concerned personally, I believe that we should only get in the way in very exceptional cases and by being thoughtful of getting in the way of letting people do what they want with their money as long as it is lawful, but we also need to be thoughtful in how we write those policies.”
Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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