WASHINGTON — Facebook’s ambitious plan to create a cryptocurrency that would replace traditional money all over the world appears to be on life support. Regulators and lawmakers have mocked it. Key partners like Visa and Mastercard have stepped away from it.
But the company isn’t backing down. Facebook executives fanned out in the capital last week to court lawmakers and regulators to the cryptocurrency project, called Libra. And on Wednesday, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, is expected to testify about Libra at a hearing held by the House Financial Services Committee.
Company executives are expending a surprising amount of energy and time defending their cryptocurrency plan, even though it is not central to Facebook’s business, advertising. The company also faces a variety of seemingly more pressing issues in Washington, including questions about antitrust and privacy violations and election security and disinformation.
The Libra project was secretly incubated inside Facebook for over a year. Though many questioned why Facebook needed to create a cryptocurrency, Mr. Zuckerberg has long been fascinated by digital coins like Bitcoin. The company initially brought on 27 partners that it hoped would help give the cryptocurrency legitimacy and spread it. Twenty-one remain.