Mark Zuckerberg is certainly spending a lot of time in Washington, D.C., lately. The House Financial Services Committee announced on Wednesday that Facebook's founder and CEO will be making a second appearance before Congress—his second trip to the nation's capital in two months—this time to defend his company's plans for its own global cryptocurrency known as Libra.
The hearing is set for October 23 and will examine Facebook's potential influence on financial services and housing. But with congressional cameos from major tech CEOs as rare as they are—they generally send product leads or lawyers to represent them in questioning—Zuck’s grilling is likely to cover a range of issues, from Facebook's bad habit of buying up competitors to its supposed anti-conservative bias, a favorite pet topic of House Republicans.
A Facebook spokesperson told The Daily Beast that “Mark looks forward to testifying before the House Financial Services Committee and responding to lawmakers’ questions.”
The hearing is likely to be another high-profile spectacle in which a tech titan does their best to appear nominally cooperative, while divulging new no information and fending off the often meme-worthy moments from tech’s legitimate critics and impossibly tech-inept members of Congress alike.
House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) has made her position on Facebook's proposed digital currency master plan clear from day one. This summer, Waters called for a “moratorium” on Facebook's plans—a strong position to stake out, even as Facebook continues to absorb threats from regulators across federal agencies and states. She also cited the company's “troubled past” on consumer privacy, denouncing Facebook's “unchecked expansion” into users' lives.
Facebook's Libra project has suffered a few high-profile setbacks in recent days. News broke this week that PayPal would withdraw from the project, a move that's likely to inspire more fallout from institutional financial partners. And the Libra Association’s Head of Product Sam Morris, a lead in the Facebook-affiliated governing body set to oversee the cryptocurrency, reportedly left the project in August.
Zuckerberg's willingness to head back into such hostile territory suggests that the company is starting to take the ominous tone emanating from Congress seriously. It's also a sign that Facebook's cryptocurrency plans, set to launch in 2020, are a life-or-death matter for the company as it charts a path forward—and out of an unrelenting cascade of scandals that's unlikely to quiet down as the 2020 election draws near.