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Top Democrat calls for Facebook to halt cryptocurrency plans until Congress investigates

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‘Facebook is continuing its unchecked expansion and extending its reach into the lives of its users,’ Rep. Maxine Water said

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Testifies Before The House Financial Services Committee Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Hours after Facebook announced its plans for a global cryptocurrency project, a top House Democrat is calling for Facebook to halt its plans until Congress and regulators have had a chance to investigate potential risks.

“With the announcement that it plans to create a cryptocurrency, Facebook is continuing its unchecked expansion and extending its reach into the lives of its users,” House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) said in a statement. “Given the company’s troubled past, I am requesting that Facebook agree to a moratorium on any movement forward on developing a cryptocurrency until Congress and regulators have the opportunity to examine these issues and take action.”

Waters’ comments came shortly after the top Republican on the committee, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), wrote to Waters requesting a hearing on Facebook’s new initiative. “We know there are many open questions as to the scope and scale of the project and how it will conform to our global financial regulatory framework,” McHenry wrote. “It is incumbent upon us as policymakers to understand Project Libra. We need to go beyond the rumors and speculations and provide a forum to assess this project and its potential unprecedented impact on the global financial system.”

It’s unclear when such a hearing would occur, although Waters said that Facebook executives should testify before the committee on the issue. Over a year ago, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sat before Congress for the first and only time to discuss the fallout of the company’s Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Other lawmakers are also calling for oversight on Facebook’s plans. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said in a statement today that he would be calling on the government’s top financial “watchdogs” to assess the company’s crypto and blockchain efforts.

“Facebook is already too big and too powerful, and it has used that power to exploit users’ data without protecting their privacy,” Brown said. “We cannot allow Facebook to run a risky new cryptocurrency out of a Swiss bank account without oversight. I’m calling on our financial watchdogs to scrutinize this closely to ensure users are protected.”

A Facebook spokesperson responded to the requests in a statement to The Verge saying, “We look forward to responding to lawmakers’ questions as this process moves forward.”