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SOPA/PIPA Wakes Up Internet Giants To Realize They Need To Be More Engaged In DC

from the unfortunate-reality dept

Earlier today it was announced that a new industry trade association representing large internet companies, called The Internet Association, is going to be launching this fall, with Google, Amazon, eBay and Facebook as the charter members. Part of the thinking behind this group stemmed from the realization of how little influence various internet companies had in DC when SOPA/PIPA came along last year -- and a concerted effort to change that.

Former Congressional staffer Michael Beckerman was officially named this morning as the organization's president. I got to meet with Beckerman last week and hear some of the details about the group. To be honest, I have very mixed feelings about all of this. I tend to believe that this group will be a force for good in supporting an open internet and related issues. Beckerman was quite frank about why this new group absolutely needs to be focused on supporting the views of the public (because unlike in some other industries, when an internet company diverges from the public interest, it's very easy for its users/customers to go elsewhere). One of the major concerns we discussed was where the interests of internet users and the large internet companies might diverge, and how this organization would deal with those situations. He was pretty adamant that if they're not doing a good job representing the public's interest as well, then the organization isn't doing its job. Hopefully that is true, but obviously it's a claim that deserves close scrutiny as this organization ramps up. Hopefully, Beckerman will model the organization on the success of organizations like CEA, who have built up a very strong reputation in recognizing that by fighting to protect consumers they do the best in the long run for the electronics companies they represent. CEA has a long history of putting consumers first on various issues (even when you could make the argument that their own members feel differently), and it's done well for itself. The Internet Association would do good to follow that lead.

So while I think that this organization is likely to be very helpful in various fights to protect the open internet, I'm a bit disappointed that the state of politics today means that something like this is even needed. And, as always, I worry about large industry players working towards efforts to maintain their position, rather than supporting actual innovation. We've certainly seen large companies who were once innovative later turn around and fight against disruption and defend the status quo. Hopefully that's not what will happen with the Internet Association. Beckerman appears to have a good grasp on the issues, so I'm encouraged by the idea that there will be an organization like this in DC, focused exclusively on internet-related issues, even as I'm disappointed that it's necessary.

One bit of advice, since I know many folks here will automatically be allergic to the idea of any sort of new DC-based trade group, even if it's likely to be fighting against groups that seek to harm the open internet: one way to hopefully avoid a bad result is to engage with this new group. Help them continue to fight the good fight by working with them, rather than automatically dismissing them. Beckerman definitely seems interested in engaging people well beyond just the companies that are members of the association (which, as I understand it, is looking for additional members), and hopefully the more he engages with people who have a personal interest in an open internet, the more he'll be able to help.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jul 2012 @ 5:08pm

    Re: divide & conquer

    See if you can't put this by them. :)

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