Libra Shrugged: How Facebook Tried to Take Over the Money


Libra Shrugged — on sale Monday 2 November 2020

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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 on Facebook’s case over personal data abuses, election rigging and fake news.

In 2018, 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 could no longer stop them. It would be the Silicon Valley dream.


Facebook launched Libra in June 2019. Libra would be a private international currency and payment system. It could even “bank the unbanked,” for international development and globalization of commerce. Libra could apparently do all this just by using a “blockchain.”

But Libra was really created to make Facebook too big to regulate — and to lead the way for Facebook’s Silicon Valley fellows to swing the power of their money as they pleased.

Libra would be a cryptocurrency. It would flow instantly around the world by phone. It would be impossible to regulate; 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, 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 Libra fail so hard? How did Facebook put forward such a bizarre and ill-considered plan, that left every regulator who saw it reeling in horror?

What was Facebook thinking with Libra? 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”?

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


Also covered: Central Bank Digital Currencies: digital versions of official legal tender, suddenly fashionable again because of Libra. And Facebook’s early forays into payments, with Facebook Credits and Messenger Payments.

Table of Contents

Introduction: When Facebook tried to take over the money 3
Chapter 1: A user’s guide to Libra 6
Chapter 2: The genesis of Libra: Beller’s blockchain 11
Chapter 3: To launch a Libra: Let’s start a crypto 15
Chapter 4: Bitcoin: why Libra is like this 21
Chapter 5: The Libra White Papers 29
Chapter 6: Banking the unbanked 40
Chapter 7: The Libra Reserve plan and economic stability 47
Chapter 8: Libra, privacy and your digital identity 60
Chapter 9: The regulators recoil in horror 65
Chapter 10: David Marcus before the US House and Senate 75
Chapter 11: July to September 2019: Libra runs the gauntlet 95
Chapter 12: October 2019: Libra’s bad month 102
Chapter 13: Mark Zuckerberg before the US House 112
Chapter 14: November 2019: The comedown 124
Chapter 15: Central bank digital currencies 130
Epilogue: Libra 2.0: not dead yet 142
Appendix: 2010–2013: The rise and fall of Facebook Credits 149
Acknowledgements 155
About the author 156
Notes 157

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