Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is seen on stage during a town hall at Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, California September 27, 2015. Photo: Reuters/Stephen Lam/File Photo
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is facing heat from regulators in many countries. File photo: Reuters

Facebook is reportedly planning to launch a cryptocurrency-based digital payments system in around a dozen countries by the first quarter of 2020.

According to the BBC, the social media giant plans to carry out tests on the cryptocurrency, dubbed “GlobalCoin” by Facebook, by the last quarter of this year.

The BBC says Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg met with Bank of England governor Mark Carney in April to discuss the risks of managing a proprietary digital currency. He has also sought regulatory advice from the US Treasury.

Facebook is reportedly also talking to money transfer platform Western Union to find faster and cheaper ways for the world’s approximate two billion “unbanked” people to send and receive money. 

To date, Facebook has had an ambivalent relationship with crypto.

A major Facebook management shakeup was reported in May last year, apparently at the request of Zuckerberg, that saw the Californian tech business launch a dedicated blockchain unit for the first time.

In December it was reported that Facebook planned to launch a cryptocurrency focused on the Indian remittance market, that would let users transfer money on Facebook’s Whatsapp messaging service, despite cryptocurrencies being outlawed by the Reserve Bank of India in April 2018.

Earlier this month, Facebook made a hard U-turn on its crypto advertising ban by allowing crypto-related ads back on its platform, after begin accused of allowing crypto spammers and scammers to operate there unhindered.

Facebook has come under a barrage of global criticism in the last few years over how it handles, and profits from, users’ personal data, and regulators, especially in Washington, are likely to study the company’s crypto plans in detail and follow the launch closely.

A few weeks ago, the US Senate and Banking committee sent an open letter to Zuckerberg questioning how the currency will work and how consumer privacy will be protected.

The Facebook platform, launched in 2004, is the world’s largest social media network and this month had approximately 2.38 billion monthly active users.

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