France’s powerful finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, has announced the country will block the development of Facebook’s upcoming libra cryptocurrency in Europe due to fears it threatens the “monetary sovereignty” of governments, reports the Guardian.
Facebook’s libra cryptocurrency is scheduled to launch in the first half of 2020 and is the social media giant’s attempt to get a foothold in the hot cryptocurrency market. Facebook is marketing libra as an opportunity to provide low-cost online financial services to 1 billion “unbanked” people. However, libra has received extreme blowback worldwide from governments concerned about Facebook’s history with privacy and its attempts to lock people into its platforms.
At a conference on virtual currencies, Le Maire announced France’s intention to block development and use of libra within the European Union bloc, which has over 500 million consumers. Le Maire said, “I want to be absolutely clear: In these conditions, we cannot authorize the development of libra on European soil.” But he went further, explaining:
The monetary sovereignty of countries is at stake from a possible privatization of money . . . by a sole actor with more than 2 billion users on the planet.
His fears of a possible “privatization of money” by Facebook aren’t unfounded. Unlike other cryptocurrencies, Facebook’s libra will not be decentralized. “Decentralization” in the realms of cryptocurrency refers to the fact that no one body or organization controls the technology. This wouldn’t be the case for Facebook’s libra. While Facebook itself said it wouldn’t control the currency, a Swiss-based nonprofit association would.
Though libra’s debut is set for next year, it can’t be guaranteed Facebook will be able to launch the cryptocurrency on schedule given the extreme scrutiny it is receiving. Le Maire’s and France’s stance today only serves to increase that scrutiny even more.