Even as industry enters a new period of increased regulatory scrutiny in Washington, the trade association representing Silicon Valley’s top corporations will split. For the last nine years, the Internet Association has lobbied politicians in Washington to advance the interests of Facebook, Amazon, Google, Airbnb, Uber, Twitter, eBay, Spotify, Zillow, and a slew of other well-known internet businesses, from the largest to the smallest. Politico originally reported the news of the group’s demise.
“Our industry has experienced enormous development and change since the Internet Association was founded almost ten years ago, and in keeping with this evolution, the Board has made the tough decision to shutter the organization at the end of this year,” the group said in a statement. “… Through a free and open internet, IA has achieved significant success in its objective to inspire innovation, support economic growth, and empower people.”
Some members of the Internet Association have had direct policy disagreements in recent years. Even among the group’s most powerful members, the schism appears to be deepening on fundamental issues. While the IA has declared that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act should preserved, as is, IA member Meta (now the parent company of Facebook) has told Congress that it is open to amending the legislation in order to “earn some of our Section 230 protections.”
The association represents its members on problems like artificial intelligence, broadband, content moderation, and privacy, but it has notably avoided the antitrust argument, which is the most pertinent and significant policy discussion in the industry’s recent history.
With politicians preparing to put additional controls on internet corporations, antitrust will continue to overshadow most other policy concerns that affect both significant participants in the industry and smaller businesses with market dominance worries.
Yelp, which joined the Internet Association in 2014, had earlier left the association owing to disagreements. “This organization could’ve saved itself years ago by throwing out everyone with a market valuation larger than $500 billion (ie GAFA),” tweeted Luther Lowe, Yelp Senior Public Policy VP. “A few years back, I presented this notion to the leadership, but it was knocked down, so we resigned.”
Yelp testified before Congress on antitrust problems, claiming that Google, a former IA member, is a monopoly that unjustly favors its own goods in search results. Michael Beckerman, the long-serving president of the IA, departed last year to join TikTok as the company’s head of public policy in the Americas. Last month, Microsoft and Uber both departed the organization, indicating that IA’s relevance in the current digital policy context is dwindling.