The problem with Facebook calling its crypto “Libra”

Go with the flow.
Go with the flow.
Image: Facebook
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On Tuesday, Facebook announced Libra, its new global cryptocurrency, that the company says could increase financial inclusion for millions of people across the world. The digital unit, expected to launch in early 2020, is already attracting significant doubt from people who worry about trusting the social media giant with their finances.

Ahead of the unveiling, Facebook explained to Quartz why the company selected the Libra name and symbol.

The name was inspired by the origins of money in Ancient Rome, where the Libra was a unit of weight used to mint coins, according to a Facebook spokesperson. Libra also evokes the French libre (“free”), the spokesperson added, and reflects the corresponding astrological symbol—the scales of justice, relevant in theory because the crypto is meant to make financial inclusion standard around the globe. The new crypto’s symbol, a wave, “represents the energy that flows between us, the borderless nature of water, and the movement between people, places, and money,” the spokesperson said.

The thing is, Libra is also a tampon brand—and an extremely popular one in Australia, which observers instantly pointed out on Twitter.

Although Facebook has clear reasons for choosing the Libra name, it still seems a bit culturally ignorant for a currency it intends to be global.

To select a name that’s already associated with popular women’s product demonstrates naïveté—or perhaps a lack of awareness—about how it will be received around the world, and especially by Australian women. Of course, no name is perfect, but one would hope that the company’s strategy is more attentive to women and global users than the Libra’s name would suggest.

The company did not reply to an email request for comment about whether it was previously aware of the Australian tampon company’s name.