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Maxine Waters presses Meta over plans for crypto and blockchain

The United States House Financial Services Committee is putting pressure on Meta to open up about any blockchain or crypto-related plans it may have — given a total of five cryptocurrency and blockchain-related trademark applications still active from 2022. 

Committee ranking member Maxine Waters stated in a Jan. 22 letter to Meta founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and operating chief Javier Olivan that the trademark applications— all filed on March 18, 2022 — “appear to represent a continued intention to expand the company’s involvement in the digital assets ecosystem.”

Waters said the applications show Meta is working on digital assets despite Meta telling Democratic Financial Services Committee staff on Oct. 12, 2023, “that there is no ongoing digital assets work at Meta.”

Meta abandoned plans for its payments crypto stablecoin Diem (formerly Libra) in mid-2019 due to pressure from lawmakers. It sold Diem for $200 million in January 2022 to the now-collapsed Silvergate Bank.

Meta’s mid-2019 plan to release a digital wallet, Novi (formerly Calibra), by 2020 similarly fizzled out with no indication of a new release date.

The opening of Waters’ letter to Zuckerberg and Olivan. Source: House Financial Services Committee

The trademark filings denote various services for crypto and “blockchain assets” trading, exchange, payments, transfers, wallets and the associated hardware and software infrastructure.

A Notice of Allowance (NOA) for each filing — a document saying the application meets registration requirements — has been sent to Meta, who, within six months, must file either a statement that it will use the trademark or request a six-month extension to file the statement.

Related: Meta’s AI overhaul: Zuckerberg’s plan to integrate and expand generative AI research

Meta has until Feb. 15 at the earliest to respond to the first NOA sent on Aug. 15, 2023. The latest NOA was sent on Jan. 16, meaning it has until July 16 to respond.

Waters asked Meta how it will respond to the NOAs, if it intends to pursue any Web3, crypto or digital wallet projects along and if it’s launching a crypto payments platform.

She also queried the extent of Meta’s research into stablecoins or partnerships with stablecoin projects, if it’s looking to adopt distributed ledger technology (DLT) and how its technology might allow crypto-related functions in its metaverse.

Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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