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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Facebook’s cryptocurrency plans will face scrutiny in two Congressional hearings this week, during which company exec David Marcus will attempt to abate lawmakers’ concerns.

The big picture: Facebook’s foray into cryptocurrency has caught the attention of Congress like no previous cryptocurrency. As Fed chairman Jerome Powell said last week, any problems with Libra "would arise to systemically important levels just because of the mere size of the Facebook network."

On the docket: Facebook will testify in front of the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday and the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday.

What to watch: There’s no shortage of questions for lawmakers to delve into this week, but a few topics will likely emerge as priorities during the hearings:

  • Privacy: Facebook’s string of privacy scandals over the last couple of years is sure to raise a lot of questions on the topic from lawmakers. (While Libra’s governing body is not run by Facebook, the social media giant does have a new subsidiary in charge of developing and maintaining a digital wallet compatible with the Libra token.)
  • What is Libra and who should regulate it: Is it a security, exchange-traded fund, something else? (In prepared remarks, Marcus says Libra’s governing body will register with FinCEN as a money services business, in addition to oversight from various regulators in Switzerland, where it’s based.)
  • Financial and monetary risks: As Powell hinted, because of Facebook’s scale (it has more than two billion users globally), it could have huge implications.
  • Consumer protections: Facebook’s subsidiary, Calibra, is developing a digital wallet for Libra tokens that can interact with their bank accounts.

What they’re saying: “ Facebook will not offer the Libra digital currency until we have fully addressed regulatory concerns and received appropriate approvals,” Marcus says in his prepared testimony for the Senate hearing.

Bonus: Over the weekend, The Block obtained a draft bill that would effectively ban Facebook and other tech companies with over $25 billion in annual global revenue from creating digital currencies.

  • Sources tells Axios that the bill came from House Financial Services Committee chair Maxine Waters's staff, but is intended as a starting point for discussion with stakeholders.
  • Some experts believe it's simply a way to make a strong point to Facebook and not a serious piece of legislation.

What’s next: Don’t be surprised if Congress schedules more hearings about Libra, especially since there are 27 other companies and organizations involved in the project, including major payments providers like Visa and Mastercard.

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."

5 hours ago - Health

U.S. to restrict air travel from 8 countries over new COVID variant concerns

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The U.S. will impose new air travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant, a new COVID strain first detected in South Africa, President Biden announced Friday.

The big picture: Air travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi will be restricted starting on Monday.