‘MOVE fast and break things,” said the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in 2009. “Unless you are breaking stuff, you are not moving fast enough.”

You might have thought their recent troubles – that is, being revealed as a tool of political extremism, misinformation and destabilisation – would have slowed Facebook down a little.

But it turns out there’s a complement to Zuckerberg’s slogan: Move slow, and they break you up. Government and public regulators all over the world are poking into Facebook’s innards, wondering just how much power they possess, with the interaction data of 2.8 billion people on their servers.

Legislators from Miami to Myanmar are asking whether this behemoth should be more tightly regulated, or even scaled down, from its current monopoly position.

So rather than wait for dismemberment, Facebook have decided instead to try to take over the financial world. This week, Zuckerberg announced that his company was going to establish a new digital currency, called Libra.

Go to the main website, and the first image you see is a beautiful black woman street trader, wearing traditional African dress.

The opening animation talks of the billions who don’t have bank accounts; who send remittances to far-off families and pay punishing percentages to do so; and the business opportunities that will open up when the transaction costs of money are reduced to a tiny amount.

“I’d like to teach the world to Libra,” the jingle might go, “in perfect harmony”. If it’s not Coca-colonisation, then maybe it’s Facebookistan. More brutally, Facebook have noticed that other parts of the world are linking together social media and banking services.

In Africa, the m-Pesa system has been transferring cash by text messaging for a decade. In China, 85% of all financial transactions happen over the WeChat app.

A bit embarrassingly, all this hoopla about Libra could partly be because US digital finance, on the consumer side, is pretty primitive. Even in the UK, an individual writes six paper cheques a year; in the US, it’s 38.

So again, Libra is an indication of Facebook’s desire – as it is for the other software giants – to move aggressively into new spaces. Their intent is always to gain significant ground, colonise the gray areas, before those pesky legislatures and elected politicians catch them up.

What is alarming is that Libra isn’t just about Facebook running ahead of the lawmakers. It’s actually about them becoming pretty much a sovereign domain themselves.

Libra overtly places itself in the context of the recent growth in cryptocurrencies. These are digital value-tokens, like Bitcoin and Ethereum, which promise to make finance cheaper to use, and its users more protected from surveillance (by big banks, corporations or states).

But Bitcoin and Ethereum coins are notoriously unstable – their prices fluctuate high and low, as the patterns of usage in their software systems shift. Libra, by contrast, aims to be what’s called a “stablecoin”.

That is, it will have all the speed and cheapness of cryptocurrency, but it will be backed up by a “basket” of traditional currencies and government bonds, with initial funds deposited by a range of reputable institutions (including Visa and Mastercard). This ensures the “stable” part ... they hope.

The Libra Association, which stands behind the new currency, will be located in the not-all-that-futuristic locale of Switzerland – a territory where Facebook will, doubtless, have the freedom to manage its affairs optimally (and handily earn interest on the deposits landed there).

Many have already noted the minimal reference to Facebook’s tax and fiscal responsibilities in the “white paper” explaining the currency.

But if you have become a “virtual global nation”, then isn’t taxation an internal matter anyway? Isabella Kaminski of the FT has drawn the parallels between the 1913 creation of the Federal Reserve in the US, and what Facebook are trying to establish here.

Back then, a range of private financial institutions – like Libra – came together to try and reduce transaction costs (between the US states), by agreeing how money should be circulated.

Facebook are audaciously trying to be a Federal Reserve for the whole world. They want to leverage their network power – and the billions of users already in their systems – to launch entirely new financial standards and practices.

The National: Facebook founder Mark ZuckerbergFacebook founder Mark Zuckerberg

THERE are quite a few “haud on a minute” tests to be applied here. One would be: Zuck, are we supposed to believe you when you say you won’t combine the social data on Facebook with the financial data on Libra? Given the recent scandals over your aiding and abetting of Cambridge Analytica, or other work for political campaigners, isn’t our scepticism justified?

This could be the Little Britain sketch (“computer says no”) extrapolated to a nightmarish level. Indeed, this is exactly what’s happening in China at the moment.

The whole population, or at least those with devices, dwells within what’s called a “social credit system”. This monitors your behaviour not just online, but via cameras in the street, recognising your face and gait. Credit and rewards are extended, or taken away, to the extent that you have been measured as performing like a “good citizen” – or not.

The problem is, the surveillance reach of the Facebook system (or for that matter, Google or Amazon) is no less vast.

At least the Chinese are honest about wanting these techno-systems to achieve a Confucian-like social balance. Western companies are monitoring and processing the same behaviour – except surreptitiously. It’s already been reported that domestic service devices like Alexa or Nest are quietly listening in to family conversations even when they’re not voice-activated.

So the arrogant global corporation, and the control-freak authoritarian state, are both what the academic Shoshana Zuboff calls “instrumentarians”. Both regimes believe they have the right to collect and crunch our behavioural data in their systems. In the consumerist West, at least, the cages are bigger and the chains longer.

IS there a democratic politics that can do anything other than chuck a Luddite spanner in these works? Some pundits think that Libra may well end up a non-starter, precisely because of the power of national and regional jurisdictions to permit or refuse their operations.

In terms of Scottish sovereignty politics, the matter is acute. Entities like the European Union are at the right scale to compel the tech giants to retreat from monopoly, and give citizens rights over their data (represented by measures like GDPR), along with other reforms.

However, entities like a post-Brexit Britain may well want to present themselves as a “regulatory sandbox”, as the techies put it. That is a zone where companies like Facebook can experiment with their techno-totalising future as much as they like.

Will Scotland walk confidently into the former situation, or be increasingly vulnerable to the latter?

We live, increasingly, in a science-fictional world. It’s a Tomorrowland of speed and embedded intelligence, of frictionless interaction, of new kinds of resource and value opening up everywhere.

But if we don’t hang on to fundamental questions about how we, as citizens, can affect the massive structures that order our lives, then we threaten to go back instead to the dim past. Meaning an updated feudalism, where powerful elites proscribe and shape our existences.

Your common-sense might already be ringing a warning bell on Facebook’s latest masterplan. Do we, should we, really give one company that much power – to enable both the world’s communication, and the world’s commerce, in the same space? Zuckerberg’s slogan needs another twist, for us living down here: Move carefully. And don’t surrender your freedoms.