U.S. lawmaker concerned about Meta’s digital assets plans

U.S. Representative Maxine Waters (D-Calif) sent a letter to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Javier Olivan on Monday, expressing concern about five trademark applications related to digital assets that the company had filed last year.

These applications concern projects involving digital currency exchange in social and dating services, computer hardware and software design related to blockchain technology, and cryptocurrency trading.

Waters said the fillings indicated that Meta would expand its role in the digital assets market, contrary to past statements from the company that said there was no ongoing digital assets work at Meta.

“Despite these trademark applications, which indicate there are specific goods and services connected with digital asset work that Meta is doing, Meta staff asserted on October 12, 2023, in communications with Democratic Financial Services Committee (Committee) staff that there is no ongoing digital assets work at Meta,” said Waters.

Waters seeks clarification on whether Meta is pursuing plans for a cryptocurrency exchange and the potential integration of those plans into its existing platforms.

Furthermore, a Notice of Allowance (NOA) for each filling, a document that declares an application meets registration requirements, has been sent to Meta. It dictates Meta must file either a statement that it will use the trademark within six months or request a six-month extension.

The company has until February 15 to respond to the first NOA sent on August 15, 2023, as well as until July 16 to respond to the latest NOA sent on January 16. Waters demanded an answer regarding Meta’s response to the NOAs.

She also inquired about the scope of Meta’s research into stablecoins or partnerships with stablecoins projects. Additionally, the congresswoman asked whether Meta was planning to launch payment platforms with support for cryptocurrencies, facilitating cryptocurrency creation, mining, storage, transmission and settlement.

Meta’s digital assets service plans

In 2019, Facebook revealed plans to develop a cryptocurrency-based payment platform named Libra. The plans included launching a stablecoin of the same, envisioned to be denominated in single G3 currencies, USD, EUR and GBP.

The Libra token would have been kept in the Calibra Wallet and would have been printed by any member of the Libra Association who would have met certain requirements. The Swiss non-profit organization Libra Association was supposed to monitor and track Libra transactions and manage a basket of international currencies, securities and treasuries.

A group of House Democrats called for Facebook to halt the ongoing work of its proposed digital wallet in 2019. The lawmakers were concerned about security, particularly user privacy and hacker attacks.

In April 2020, Libra and its partners discontinued their plans due to this opposition. In December, Libra rebranded into Diem, resuming its effort to gain regulatory approval by shifting its scope to a single dollar-backed digital coin.

The brand did not last long. The association behind Diem soon confirmed it had sold its assets to Silvergate for $200 million in 2022. The crypto-focused bank Silvergate bought all its development, deployment and operations infrastructure.

Diem Networks’ U.S. CEO Stuart Levey said the projects could not move ahead after dialogue with federal regulators and selling the assets was the best decision.