The Internet Association, a new lobbying group for Internet companies, is getting backing from Google, eBay, Facebook, Amazon and others. The group plans to offer more details in September.
In a striking move, major Web-based companies such
as Google, Amazon, eBay and Facebook are joining together in a new lobbying
effort aimed at making their interests and legislative concerns known directly
to government leaders.
The new Washington-based group, The Internet
itself on July 25
as a membership organization "comprised of some of
the worlds most visible Internet companies," according to a statement.
A news report by Reuters quoted
an unnamed source as confirming
Google, Amazon, eBay and Facebook are among
the group's first major members.
"We're not confirming or denying the identities
of any members at this time," Michael Hacker, a spokesman for the group,
said in a July 26 interview with eWEEK.
Asked why a group like this hadn't been formed in
the past to lobby directly for Internet-based businesses over the last 15
years, Hacker said that the impetus was solidified last fall and early this
year when proposed legislation such as the controversial Stop Online Piracy (SOPA) and Protect IP
(PIPA) acts were seen as real threats.
"SOPA and PIPA were real wake-up calls to this
industry," said Hacker.
The two bills
shelved by Congress last January
including a voluntary Internet blackout in which some 7,000 sites such as
Wikipedia made themselves inaccessible
online for 24 hours caused lawmakers to take a new look at the approaches of
the proposed legislation.
SOPA aims to give copyright holders broad legal powers to go after sites
selling or distributing counterfeit content by forcing Internet service
providers to block access to the sites and other sites from linking to them.
Major Internet companies, civil liberties groups and security experts are
bitterly opposed to the bill for what they view as unnecessarily broad powers
granted to intellectual property owners to target pirates and draconian
measures that would stifle innovation and open communication on the Internet.
PIPA is the Senate's version of SOPA.
Andrew Noyes, manager of public policy
communications for Facebook, replied in an email response that he had no comment about whether his company is a charter member of
the new lobbying group.
"However, it is clear the Internet needs a
voice in Washington and the formation of the Internet Association is a welcome
development," wrote Noyes.
Rob Enderle, principal analyst with The Enderle Group, said the
formation of the group is a smart move for the Internet industry.
"It's well past the time that somebody did this,"
said Enderle. "Some members of Congress still think of the Internet as a
series of tubes. A group like this will help keep Congress informed so they're
at least not making decisions in a vacuum."
Net-related legislation still pending before Congress includes the Cyber
Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2011 (CISPA)
Internet Association will be headed by Michael Beckerman as president and CEO.
Beckerman previously was the deputy staff director with the U.S. House Energy
and Commerce Committee, which oversees the nations telecommunications and
Internet policy. He previously was the chief policy advisor to Committee
Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI).
No one can predict what innovations will happen next" on the
Internet, Beckerman said in a statement. "But we do know that the
Internets decentralized and open model is what has enabled its unprecedented
growth and innovation. We must guard against misguided attempts to handcuff
this incredible source of job creation, freedom and creativity.
mission of the group will be to acknowledge that what happens with the Internet
affects everyone on Main Street and not just in Silicon Valley, said Beckerman. "Our top priority is to ensure
that elected leaders in Washington understand the profound impacts of the
Internet and Internet companies on jobs, economic growth and freedom."
said it will release full details about its organization and membership in
September when it formally launches.
Federal lobbying spending has been
increasing from companies like Google and Facebook recently, according to Reuters
Google "increased federal
lobbying spending by 90 percent year-on-year, spending $3.92 million in the
second quarter to lobby the U.S. Congress, the White House and various federal
"The company, which is being investigated by antitrust regulators in the
United States and Europe, lobbied officials at the Federal Trade Commission,
the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Commerce."
Meanwhile, "Facebook boosted
its spending on federal lobbying by 200 percent in the second quarter, spending
$960,000 on issues including online privacy and immigration reform."
Another group with Internet companies as members, The
Internet Defense League, was launched in May
. That group involves companies
such as Mozilla, WordPress and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The organization
aims to help protect the Web against proposed laws and other actions members that
could hinder Internet freedom.