It’s time to click the angry emoticon on Facebook’s most recent foray into becoming the personal banking hub for Americans. If the tech giant’s history of censorship, invasion of privacy and political influencing – combined with their antigun bias – is any indication, this could be a stranglehold on gun and ammunition purchases that would make the engineers of Operation Choke Point green with envy.
Facebook is relaunching their digital wallet app that was formerly known as Calibra, now rebranded as “Novi” and built on blockchain technology. The digital wallet would partner with “Diem,” a group of 26 corporate and non-profit members that is building a blockchain-based payments system that Novi will use.
The technology with deal in crypto-currency called “Diem,” formerly known as “Libra.” Facebook says the value will be tied to the U.S. dollar, but it raises questions about whether the currency will be usable for all transactions, as where the U.S. dollar bill reads, “This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private.”
Facebook executives are attempting to convince Washington, D.C. lawmakers that they can be trusted.
“If there’s one thing we need, it’s the benefit of the doubt,” Facebook’s David Marcus told Axios. “[W]e’re starting with a trust deficit that we need to compensate.”
There’s a healthy amount of skepticism, though. Alysa James, a spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), chair of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, told the Washington Post that federal regulators are warning the digital currency could upend worker paychecks and the stability of the financial system.
For the firearm industry and gun buyers, the concerns are a lot closer to home.
Facebook has a long streak of anti-gun animus. The social media platform banned ads for “accessories such as gun safes, vests and gun holsters in the US,” earlier this year. That followed a ban on the Sportsman’s Shop in East Earl, Pa., for advertising American flags. Facebook said the ads qualified as prohibited content under their ad policies. The ad wasn’t about guns, though. It was about honoring the American flag.
Gun Control at the Switch
If that wasn’t enough, Facebook’s digital wallet, Novi, is being pushed by David Marcus, quoted earlier. He heads up Facebook’s F2, which stands for Facebook Financial. Before that, Marcus was a PayPal executive.
PayPal has its own history of discriminating against the firearm industry. Blair Gladwin, owner of Merced, Calif.-based firearm retailer Gladwin Guns and Ammo, found himself in PayPal’s crosshairs. PayPal, Stripe and Square, all payment processing companies, dropped Gladwin once they learned he was in the lawful business of selling firearms. Gladwin filed a class action lawsuit against the companies.
Marcus is trying to convince lawmakers and regulators that Facebook’s Novi will be free of Facebook’s influence, since it will be steered by the 26-member companies. Those companies include Lyft, Uber and Coinbase. Each of those companies has their own anti-gun policies.
Coinbase has a user agreement that prohibits the use of their bitcoin for “weapons and munitions; gunpowder and other explosives.” Diem advertises that it has a social impact advisory board (SIAB), comprised of members who promote the Association’s social impact initiatives and work to further the Association’s goal of financial inclusion.
Patterns of Abuse
Financial experts have their own concerns about Facebook’s attempted takeover. They’re not exactly the same as those in the firearm industry, but the seeds of doubt over trust issues with the social media giant sprout similarly.
“The fundamental risk is that this is Facebook, and Facebook has violated trust and promises repeatedly since its inception, so why should this time be any different?” said Lee Reiners, executive director of the Global Financial Markets Center at Duke University to The Washington Post.
The problem is that Facebook offers no safety rails to their surveillance, interference or prohibition of Novi’s users to use their currency to exercise their Second Amendment rights to purchase firearms and ammunition. Given their history, they almost guarantee Novi would violate not just the free exercise of gun rights, but also of their right to free commerce.
Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.