The tech industry’s giants are not unaware that regulators in Washington are going to do something about their meteoric growth sooner or later. As such, a consortium of companies including Facebook, Google, Amazon and eBay are joining forces to form the Internet Association, a new and very broadly defined trade group to watch out for their interests. Acting independently of these companies’ individual lobbying efforts, the new group is positioning itself to be the “voice of the Internet” and plans to “handle political and regulatory issues” in Washington. It will formally launch on September 19.
This week, Capitol Hill insider Michael Beckerman was named as the first president and CEO of the Internet Association and spoke in superlatives about the group’s mission. One of the primary motivating factors for banding together was much loathed Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act. “No one can predict what innovations will happen next,” he said. “But we do know that the Internet’s 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.” In other words, the Internet Association will do everything it can to fight regulation. Other issues to be tackled include online sales tax reforms, privacy legislation and all things cybersecurity related.
The Internet Association is hardly the only anti-regulatory tool in these Silicon Valley giants’ bags. News of the group’s formation comes just a couple of days after Facebook and Google revealed that they were boosting lobbying spending. And we’re not talking a 10 or 15 percent boost. In the second quarter of this year, Google increased it’s lobbying budget to $3.92 million, a 90 percent increase year-over-year, putting it on par with big telecom companies like Verizon and Comcast. Meanwhile, Facebook jacked up its efforts by a whopping $200 percent, devoting just under a million dollars to fighting regulation in Washington. Launched last year, the company’s political action group also continues to grow and has given $193,500 to lawmakers so far this year.
The huge sums of money and armies of lobbyist are only the beginning of these Silicon Valley companies taking over Washington. Behind the scenes, these companies are hiring more and more Beltway types to help them cozy up to the government and watch out for their best interests. There’s no doubt that they can be pretty influential in shaping the future of the mostly unregulated Internet, and tech companies end to move about a hundred times faster than the bureaucracy-laden government. The Internet Association, for one, is already speaking the lawmakers’ language. “The Internet isn’t just Silicon Valley anymore, the Internet has moved to Main Street,” said Beckerman in a statement. “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.”