CEO of state oil company, Rosneft, Igor Sechin – seen here with Vladimir Putin – warned last week about the 'significant investments' made by US tech giants into many areas of global trade. Photo: AFP

Facebook’s intended foray into digital currencies has been met with mixed reactions. Many have alluded that the social media giant could be about to produce some kind of Bitcoin competitor while others have made a more complex claim that it signals a much deeper and far-ranging global intention.

One of these is the head of Russia’s state oil company, Rosneft, who has suggested that the US tech monopolies, such as Facebook, are angling to dominate global trading networks by controlling virtual currencies. Igor Sechin, who is also often described as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s de facto deputy, spoke at length on the subject at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum last week, according to Russian media reports.

“We see their significant investments,” said Sechin about the US tech giants, “in the development of universal technological solutions for processing large data arrays, developing alternative forms of transport, including unmanned vehicles and ecosystems of the ‘sharing economy,’ as well as in the world of financial and currency instruments. Investments, continued Sechin, “are made at a speed unprecedented until now and truly on a global scale.”

Facebook wasn’t named directly but Russian media interpreted Sechin’s comments clearly enough and the Californian firm has been making big waves recently to launch its ‘Global Coin’ cryptocurrency, which could be rolled out within this year. A grand hiring spree and expansion of its blockchain division has just occurred at Facebook, which many say could see it monopolizing this space in the same way it does with personal data. As Bloomberg wrote last month, “more than 2 billion users spending one currency, controlled by one billionaire. What’s to worry about?”

Initially, Global Coin will be pegged to the US dollar but the concern is that one Facebook crypto could then lead to the other leading digital currencies being owned or controlled by Zuckerberg et al. The company has recently been in talks with the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s (CFTC) over regulatory issues.

Facebook has also reached out to old rivals, the Winklevoss twins, who reportedly were instrumental in the conception of the Facebook’s new crypto platform. The pair are now heavily involved in crypto and run their own fully regulated exchange, Gemini Trust, and Zuckerberg clearly sees the benefits of owning a piece of this pie himself.

In St Petersburg, Sechin also used the forum to voice concerns about how the Californian tech giant’s entry into financial markets could cause greater volatility and risks globally and went on to accuse the US of using energy as a political weapon.

“A number of commentators like to accuse Russia of using energy as a political tool,” said Sechin. “But indisputably, the reality today is that the United States uses energy as a political weapon on a mass scale. Sanctions, or even the threat of their imposition, have a destructive effect on the global energy market ecosystem.”

He went on to say that US tech monopolies have ‘incredible power’ which could be harnessed to benefit the interests of the US. He added that if this power remains uncontested “regulatory, sanctions and customs tariff imbalances are likely to increase.”

Last week Facebook showed the global power it now has when it complied with the US crackdown on Chinese tech firm Huawei and stopped the pre-installation of Facebook apps on their devices. 

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