Libra Shrugged: How Facebook Tried to Take Over the Money

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From Libra to Diem:
Silicon Valley tries to disrupt the world — and the world says “no.”

Facebook: the biggest social network in history. A stupendous, world-shaping success. But governments were giving Facebook trouble over personal data abuses, election rigging and fake news.

Mark Zuckerberg wondered: what if Facebook could pivot to finance? Or, better: what if Facebook started its own private world currency?

Facebook could have so much power that governments couldn’t stop them. It would be the Silicon Valley dream.


Facebook launched Libra in June 2019. Libra would be an international currency and payment system. It would flow instantly around the world by phone. It could even “bank the unbanked.” Libra could apparently do all this just by using a “blockchain.”

But Libra would also make Facebook too big to control — and lead the way for Facebook’s Silicon Valley fellows to swing the power of their money as they pleased. Facebook and their friends could work around any single country’s rules. Libra could shake whole economies.

And Facebook would become the “digital identity” provider to the world. If you wanted to use money at all, you’d have to go through Facebook.

Governments looked at Libra — and they saw another 2008 financial crisis in the making. Facebook’s plan would have made the company even more entrenched — at the cost of broken economies worldwide. Starting with toppling the US dollar.

Libra was as incompetent as it was arrogant — and the world stopped it in its tracks. But how did Facebook put forward such a bizarre and ill-considered plan, that left every regulator who saw it reeling in horror?

And what happens when another company tries the same trick? Or when Facebook won’t take “no” for an answer, and releases the cut-down version that they’re already calling “Libra 2.0”, or “Diem”?

“Libra Shrugged” is the story of a bad idea.


Also covered:

  • Bitcoin and cryptocurrency: the source of all the bad ideas in Libra.
  • Central Bank Digital Currencies: digital versions of official legal tender, suddenly fashionable again because of Libra.
  • Facebook’s early forays into payments, with Facebook Credits and Messenger Payments.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Taking over the money  7
Chapter 1: A user’s guide to Libra  9
Chapter 2: The genesis of Libra: Beller’s blockchain  15
Chapter 3: To launch a Libra: Let’s start a crypto  19
Chapter 4: Bitcoin: why Libra is like this  25
Chapter 5: The Libra White Papers  33
Chapter 6: Banking the unbanked  43
Chapter 7: The Libra Reserve plan and economic stability  49
Chapter 8: Libra, privacy and your digital identity  61
Chapter 9: The regulators recoil in horror  67
Chapter 10: David Marcus before the US House and Senate  77
Chapter 11: July to September 2019: Libra runs the gauntlet  95
Chapter 12: October 2019: Libra’s bad month  101
Chapter 13: Mark Zuckerberg before the US House  111
Chapter 14: November 2019: The comedown  123
Chapter 15: Central bank digital currencies  129
Epilogue: Libra 2.0: not dead yet  141
Appendix: 2010–2013: The rise and fall of Facebook Credits  149
Acknowledgements  155
About the author  157
Index  161
Notes  167

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