Facebook’s Libra pitches to be the future of money

Libra coins

It is a hugely ambitious - some might say megalomaniacal - project to create a new global currency. Facebook's David Marcus tells me it is about giving billions of people more freedom with money and "righting the many wrongs of the present system".

The message is this is not some little side project a small team at the Facebook's Menlo Park headquarters will try out for a few months before moving on to something else - this is both the future of Facebook and the future of money, an initiative that has seen an alliance of big players in payments such as Paypal and Visa, Silicon Valley players such as Uber and Lyft and major venture capital firms, a kind of Avengers: Endgame of technology and finance superheroes come together to make the world a better place.

But there are still many questions about FaceCoin - or Libra as the company wants us to call it. The principal one I keep coming back to is - why? As in why do we need a new global currency and do we really want it from Facebook?

Who is it for?

The Libra mission statement makes great play of the 1.7 billion people who do not have a bank account and how expensive it is for them to transfer money to relatives. But there are already plenty of organisations addressing this issue, from Kenya's Mpesa scheme to technology start-ups such as WorldRemit.

What is not clear is how exactly Libra will go through the complex business of verifying the identity of these people to comply with anti-money laundering regulations, without incurring lots of costs.

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Who will pay for trusted news?

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Here is the good news about journalism - more people are worried about misinformation and so are turning to more reputable sources of information. But here's the bad news - they seem no more inclined to pay for good journalism.

Those are just two of the headlines from this year's Digital News Report, a major research project from the Reuters Institute at Oxford University, based on an online survey of 75,000 people in 38 countries.

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Is Huawei in retreat?

Huawei and Android logos Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Huawei's access to the Android operating system was restricted by Google on Monday

It is the Chinese tech titan that is number one in telecoms equipment and has soared to second place in smartphone sales.

But after a terrible week in which many of its partners cut off ties, and it found itself at the centre of a war of words between the US and China, Tech Tent asks whether Huawei is now in full retreat.

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European elections 2019: Facebook and Twitter under the spotlight

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Are Twitter bots controlled by Russia on the march across Europe? And is Facebook full of misinformation designed to influence voters?

As the EU elections approach, researchers have been looking at the role that social networks are playing, and their early cautious verdict is that the level of misuse is relatively low.

Read full article European elections 2019: Facebook and Twitter under the spotlight

Robots on the road - how close is our driverless future?

Journey in Waymo car
Image caption Rory's journey required a human driver to take control

It was on the motorway near Phoenix, Arizona, that I realised fully driverless cars might be quite a distant dream. And that was because our Google Waymo robo-taxi seemed incapable of leaving that motorway.

We were in Arizona to record a radio documentary for the BBC World Service about the progress towards creating autonomous vehicles that would make our roads safer and replace human drivers with robots.

Read full article Robots on the road - how close is our driverless future?

Tech Tent - who’s spying on you?

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It was the week when we learned that a missed WhatsApp call could plant spyware on your phone and when San Francisco moved to ban facial recognition technology.

On Tech Tent we explore our attitudes to technology which can catch criminals - but also be used to track our every move.

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Tech Tent: What is Uber's route to profit?

Uber logo Image copyright Reuters

It is losing huge amounts of money with no clear path to profitability, a goal which the company itself admits it may never reach.

On this week's Tech Tent, we ask why Uber was valued at $82bn (£63bn).

Read full article Tech Tent: What is Uber's route to profit?

Computing in schools in 'steep decline'

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An annual study by the University of Roehampton has found that fewer 16-year-olds in England are getting a computing qualification.

It also said schools have cut back on the hours spent teaching the subject.

Read full article Computing in schools in 'steep decline'

Online political ads 'need law change'

Polling station boxes Image copyright Jane Barlow

Are the UK's election laws fit for the era of digital campaigning? The Electoral Commission certainly does not think so.

The watchdog has called for a change in the law to make online political adverts show clearly who paid for them.

Read full article Online political ads 'need law change'

Tech Tent: Can YouTube fix its algorithms?

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YouTube is probably the most influential media business for a youth audience. But on this week's Tech Tent podcast, we ask whether Google is struggling to police its platform.

If you ask people my age what they think is the world's most important and powerful TV firm, they might suggest Fox, Netflix or perhaps even the BBC.

Read full article Tech Tent: Can YouTube fix its algorithms?