Congressional Scrutiny on Meta’s Crypto and Blockchain Plans
Meta, the company founded by Mark Zuckerberg, is facing scrutiny from the United States House Financial Services Committee regarding its intentions in the cryptocurrency and blockchain. Congresswoman Maxine Waters, a ranking committee member, has expressed concerns over Meta’s potential involvement in digital assets. This inquiry stems from five trademark applications related to cryptocurrency and blockchain that Meta filed with the USPTO in March 2022. Despite Meta’s previous assertion on October 12, 2023, that there was no ongoing digital assets work within the company, these applications suggest otherwise, prompting Waters to seek clarification from Zuckerberg and operating chief Javier Olivan.
Meta’s History and Future in Digital Assets
Challenges and shifts in direction have marked Meta’s journey in the digital asset space. Due to lawmaker pressure, the company abandoned its plans for the Diem (formerly Libra) payments crypto stablecoin in mid-2019 and sold Diem for $200 million to Silvergate Bank in January 2022. Additionally, Meta’s plan to release a digital wallet, Novi (formerly Calibra), by 2020 did not materialize, and there has been no update on a new release date.
The trademark filings in question cover a range of services, including trading, exchange, payments, transfers, and wallets for crypto and blockchain assets, along with the related hardware and software infrastructure. Each filing has received a Notice of Allowance (NOA), indicating that the application meets registration requirements. Meta has deadlines in 2024 to respond to these NOAs, either by stating their intention to use the trademark or requesting an extension.
Waters’ Queries on Meta’s Crypto Involvement
In her letter, Waters asked Meta several critical questions. She seeks to understand how the company plans to respond to the NOAs and whether it intends to pursue any projects related to Web3, crypto, or digital wallets. Waters is also interested in whether Meta is launching a crypto payments platform, exploring partnerships with stablecoin projects, looking to adopt distributed ledger technology (DLT), or integrating crypto-related functions into its metaverse.
As of the reporting time, Meta had not responded to these inquiries, leaving open questions about the extent and nature of its involvement in the cryptocurrency and blockchain sectors.