A View from Jessica Leber
Internet Heavyweights Join to Expand Influence in Washington
A new lobbying group picks up where last year’s anti-SOPA protests left off.
More than a dozen major Web companies, including rivals Facebook, Amazon, eBay, and Google, have come together today to launch the Internet Association, a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying group proclaiming to be the “unified voice of the Internet economy.” A first for the Web industry, the group will work to either shape or stop attempts at new regulation in areas such as piracy, copyright, privacy, and cybersecurity, according to the Washington Post.
Historically, many of the younger Silicon Valley tech companies have ignored how sausage gets made inside the nation’s capital. But as Internet companies have come under more scrutiny from lawmakers over the years, they’re being forced to pay more attention. So far, according to Center for Responsive Politics data, Facebook has spent $1.6 million on lobbying expenses in the first half of 2012, and Google, $9.8 million—sums that are big increases from just a few years ago.
As the anti-piracy legislation known as SOPA demonstrated last year, federal actions can poke huge holes into the business models that undergird the Web. That bill, which could have penalized sites that hosted pirated content, died in Congress after a number of companies helped generate a last-minute wave of lobbying and protest. But the issue of online piracy has not gone away, and it’s interesting to see how a once-nascent industry is continuing to turn itself into a force to be reckoned with on Capitol Hill.