Zuckerberg will be the only witness at a hearing entitled “An Examination of Facebook and Its Impact on the Financial Services and Housing Sectors.” House members had been pushing for Zuckerberg to testify on Facebook’s cryptocurrency plans as the committee had been in talks with his COO Sheryl Sandberg about testifying, CNBC reported last week.
Committee chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., previously requested Facebook halt implementation for the libra cryptocurrency ahead of a July hearing with the project’s lead. Waters later seemed dissatisfied with the crypto chief David Marcus’ lack of commitment to postponing Facebook’s plans.
Since then, a number of international authorities have expressed concern over libra and one of the project’s original backers, PayPal, has dropped out. Other corporate backers like Visa and MasterCard are also reconsidering their roles, The Wall Street Journal reported. On Tuesday, two members of the Senate Banking Committee sent letters to the CEOs of Visa, MasterCard and Stripe to urge them to “carefully consider how your company will manage” the risks of the libra project before proceeding.
The hearing will be a rare chance for lawmakers to grill the Facebook chief in public. Zuckerberg recently returned to D.C. for his first official visit since his 2018 testimonies over the Cambridge Analytica scandal. But Zuckerberg only talked with lawmakers behind closed doors on that trip.
Zuckerberg’s agreement to testify with lawmakers marks a shift. In a recording of a July staff meeting obtained by The Verge, Zuckerberg told employees he has refused to testify in front of some foreign governments because “it just doesn’t really make sense for me to go to hearings in every single country that wants to have me show up.”
Zuckerberg’s meetings with lawmakers focused on the future of internet regulation, which poses a threat to Facebook’s core business. His willingness to meet representatives on their turf showed, as he has previously expressed, that he accepts regulation is coming and wants to be part of the conversation.
The testimony could also play an important role in the multiple antitrust investigations Facebook is currently facing. The company is under review by investigators at the Federal Trade Commission, a coalition of state attorneys general and the House Judiciary Committee for its competitive practices.
“Mark looks forward to testifying before the House Financial Services Committee and responding to lawmakers’ questions,” a Facebook spokesperson said.