Meta’s Digital Assets Expansion: A Scrutiny by Maxine Waters

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Congresswoman Maxine Waters, ranking member of the US House Financial Services Committee, questions Meta Platforms, Inc. (formerly Facebook) regarding its trademark applications, indicative of a potential expansion into the digital asset ecosystem.

Waters’ concerns, conveyed in a January 22, 2024 letter to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Javier Olivan, stemmed from five trademark applications filed by Meta on March 18, 2022. Despite Meta’s claim of October 12, 2023 that the company was not involved in any work with digital assets, these applications suggest otherwise. The Committee urges Meta for clarity on any current or planned blockchain or crypto-related projects.​​​​​​

Trademark applications cover a range of services in the crypto and blockchain realm, including trading, exchange, payments, transfers and the associated hardware and software infrastructure. A Notice of Allowance (NOA) for each submission indicates that Meta applications meet registration requirements. Meta must now file a statement of use or request an extension within six months of the NOA issuance dates, which range from August 2023 to January 2024.

This investigation is not Maxine Waters’ first involvement in scrutinizing tech giants’ forays into the digital asset sector. In 2019, Waters expressed his concerns about Meta’s Libra (later Diem) stablecoin project. Meta has announced plans to develop a cryptocurrency and its corresponding digital wallet, Calibra. However, the project faced significant backlash from lawmakers and regulators, leading to its eventual termination and sale of its assets to Silvergate Bank in January 2022.​​​​

Waters’ letter questions the extent of Meta’s involvement in digital assets, including any plans to launch a crypto payment platform, the company’s research into stablecoins, partnerships with stablecoin projects and its adoption of distributed ledger technology (DLT ). The congresswoman is particularly concerned about the implications of big tech companies like Meta entering the digital asset space, given their access to vast amounts of user data and the lack of a federal framework to regulate such ventures.

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In a broader context, Meta’s involvement in digital assets reflects a growing trend among tech giants exploring blockchain and cryptocurrency as potential new business avenues. However, this expansion raises critical questions about user privacy, data security, regulatory compliance, and the impact on traditional financial systems.

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