Facebook is awash in dozens of accounts, pages, and groups that are purporting to be official venues for the social network’s upcoming Libra cryptocurrency, an investigation by the Washington Post has found. And those scams are even migrating to Instagram.
Some of the pages were already offering to sell the Libra cryptocurrency at a discount despite its planned launch not scheduled until next year. Many of the fake pages included Facebook’s logo, official Libra marketing imagery, and even photos of Mark Zuckerberg. Some promised discounts on the cryptocurrency if people agreed to visit third-party websites.
Fake pages and accounts purporting to be real brands and products are unfortunately nothing new on Facebook. The irony here is that now the problem is actually affecting the company that allows it to be perpetrated. Facebook only took an effort to remove the fake pages once they were pointed out to the company by the Washington Post.
But besides being potential scam hazards for its users, these fake pages may have made it even more difficult for Facebook to get regulatory approval for Libra. As Eswar Prasad, an economics professor at Cornell University, told the Washington Post:
There is a deep irony here in Facebook being used as the platform that could undermine trust in the currency Facebook is trying to build trust in. Facebook has an enormous worldwide network and enormous financial muscle . . . But the only way Libra will work well as a medium of exchange is if everyone can trust it. And that’s the big question right now: whether there is going to be enough trust in Facebook.
News of the Libra scams comes just days after lawmakers grilled the head of Facebook’s cryptocurrency initiative. And as Senator Mark R. Warner, a top Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, noted after the Washington Post uncovered the scams:
This is another strong indication Facebook should take a very cautious approach to Libra and commit not to launching any product until U.S. regulator concerns are satisfied.
If Facebook can’t even control Libra scammers on their own platform from duping Facebook users, maybe those claims that Facebook’s cryptocurrency could threaten democracy aren’t so far-fetched after all.