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If Facebook or Google create their own currency, they can control our lives

5 246 0
24.06.2019

Dystopian fiction – from Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange to Russell T Davies’s spectacular recent BBC1 series Years and Years – is usually intended to take elements of the present and then imagine a future in which they have become inescapable, so as to warn us of what might already be in our midst.

But the 21st century is challenging this technique in one bracing sense: the way the world now seems to race beyond the wildest aspects of our collective imagination before we have even started to think about what might come next. Consider last week’s news about Facebook, and the fact that three years of corporate disgrace – and rising noise from legislators about bringing the tech giant to heel – have yet to slow its terrifying quest to insinuate its workings into every area of our lives. Now, in a move that could have been taken from a futuristic novel, it wants to create nothing less than a new global currency.

“Libra” will be pegged to a basket of mainstream currencies at a value of about a dollar, and rooted in the model of secure, immutable online transactions we know as blockchain. Its operations will be overseen by a new organisation based in Geneva, open to any company or corporation that has a value of at least $1bn (£790m) and will invest a minimum of $10m. There are currently 28 such participants, ranging from Uber and Spotify to Mastercard – and by way of assuring sceptics of its supposedly hands-off intentions, Facebook insists its own voting power will be restricted to 1%. But Libra is a project conceived and developed by Mark Zuckerberg’s company. And the currency will only perform the necessary feat of scaling up if it becomes a central part of the lives of the billions of us who use Facebook’s platforms, via a linked app called Calibra that will initially be woven into Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

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© The Guardian