Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin speaks during a news briefing at the White House, in Washington, Monday, July 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The Latest: Senators scrutinize Facebook's digital currency

July 16, 2019 - 10:41 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on congressional hearings on the reach of big tech (all times local):

10:35 a.m.

U.S. senators from both parties are opening a hearing with tough questions and criticisms of Facebook's ambitious plan to create a financial eco-system based on a digital currency.

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, the Senate Banking Committee's ranking Democrat, says it's hard to trust Facebook after a series of privacy scandals. He says it "takes a breathtaking amount of arrogance" to think it can run its own bank.

Committee Chairman Mike Crapo, an Idaho Republican, is questioning why Facebook wants to base the project in Switzerland.

David Marcus, the Facebook executive leading the project, says it's not an attempt to avoid oversight but that Switzerland is a recognized international finance center. Marcus says if the U.S. fails to act, then digital currencies could be controlled by others with dramatically different values.

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10:25 a.m.

Google is reiterating it does not work with the Chinese military after President Donald Trump said on Twitter he would "take a look" at Google and its relationship to Chinese intelligence.

"As we have said before, we do not work with the Chinese military," said Google Spokeswoman Riva Sciuto in an emailed response for comment. "We are working with the U.S. government, including the Department of Defense, in many areas including cybersecurity, recruiting and healthcare."

The comments come as a House Judiciary subcommittee is holding a bipartisan investigation of the market power of Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple.

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8:45 a.m.

President Donald Trump is vowing to "take a look" at Google after a billionaire investor suggested it may have been infiltrated by Chinese intelligence

Before 5 a.m. Eastern, Trump in a tweet called Peter Thiel, "A great and brilliant guy who knows this subject better than anyone! The Trump Administration will take a look!"

A House Judiciary subcommittee is holding a bipartisan investigation of the market power of Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple. Congress begins two days of hearings Tuesday on the currency planned by Facebook, to be called Libra, starting with the Senate Banking Committee.

Over the weekend, Thiel said the FBI and the CIA should open an investigation into Google.

According to the Axios story, Theil said Google was "engaged in the seemingly treasonous decision to work with the Chinese military and not with the US military."

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12:10 a.m.

Facebook's ambitious plan to create a financial eco-system based on a digital currency faces questions from lawmakers. It's already being shadowed by negative comments from President Donald Trump, his treasury secretary and the head of the Federal Reserve.

Congress begins two days of hearings Tuesday on the currency planned by Facebook, to be called Libra, starting with the Senate Banking Committee. Meanwhile, a House Judiciary subcommittee will be extending its bipartisan investigation of the market power of Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple.

Trump tweeted last week that Libra "will have little standing or dependability."

The Democratic head of the House Financial Services Committee, which is holding a hearing on Wednesday, has called on Facebook to suspend the plan until Congress and regulators can review it.

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