Several major Internet companies, including Google, eBay, Amazon and Facebook, are joining forces to create a lobbying group that educates lawmakers about how the Internet affects their districts. According to Reuters, the group will be called the Internet Association, and it will officially launch in September 2012.
The association will be based in Washington, DC, and headed by Michael Beckerman, a Capitol Hill veteran who most recently served as an adviser to the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee in the House of Representatives.
"The Internet isn't just Silicon Valley anymore," Beckerman told TG Daily. "The Internet has moved to Main Street. Our top priority is to ensure that elected leaders in Washington understand the profound impacts on the Internet and Internet companies on jobs, economic growth, and freedom."
A unified lobbying group makes sense, considering the major Internet companies that are allegedly involved in the effort spend a significant amount of money on federal lobbying. In the second quarter of this year, Google spent $3.92 million, Facebook spent $960,000, Amazon spent $690,000, and eBay spent $400,600 - all up between 10 percent and 200 percent from the second quarter of 2011.
As businesses increasingly move to the Internet and "the cloud," Internet companies such as Google and Facebook have a vested interest in educating lawmakers about the Web. Perhaps the most noteworthy recent example of the disconnect between Silicon Valley and Capitol Hill is the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a controversial anti-piracy bill that almost passed in Congress this year.
The Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, along with its brother, the Protect IP Act (PIPA), was supported by many lawmakers, despite the opinion of Internet and tech-related companies that it would most likely "break the Internet." Several Internet companies, including Wikipedia, Craigslist, and Reddit even blacked out their websites in protest of the two bills. SOPA and PIPA were finally put on indefinite hold at the end of January.
Some of the other issues Internet companies lobby on include H1-B visa restrictions, privacy and security issues, free trade agreements and online sales taxes.
In theory, a pro-Internet lobbying group would help ensure lawmakers fully understand how the Internet works before they try to police it. But this is a lobbying group, which means it will, in reality, favour the companies involved, education be darned - not an Internet Defense League.