Web giants launch lobbying group

September 19, 2012

Internet titans Facebook, Google, Amazon and Yahoo on Wednesday launched a new lobbying association to counter efforts by federal regulators to saddle their industry with new rules.

The Internet Association, led by Capitol Hill veteran Michael Beckerman, aims to band together some of Silicon Valley’s biggest Internet firms on issues such as piracy and copyright, privacy and cybersecurity.

The lobbying shop launches with 14 members, including IAC, LinkedIn and Zynga. It has four staff members and plans to hire more.

The trade association was created after online companies this year battled anti-piracy legislation that the firms feared would block or punish their sites for containing pirated movies, books and songs.

The bills, known as the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act, were derailed after the online companies used their Web sites to protest. The bills, supported by some authors and Hollywood companies, are expected to be revived as Congress grapples with ways to prevent the theft of intellectual property online.

“SOPA and PIPA came almost out of nowhere and would have had a devastating impact,” said Beckerman, former deputy staff director of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The lobbying group is being formed as Silicon Valley giants bolster their lobbying budgets and expand offices in Washington.

Google has spent nearly $9 million on lobbying in the first two quarters of 2012, compared with $3.5 million during the comparable period last year. Facebook has spent $1.6 million in first two quarters of this year compared with $550,000 last year.

Absent from the roster are tech giants Microsoft and Apple, who have become rivals to Google and Amazon in the rapidly expanding mobile industry. Microsoft opposed this year’s anti-piracy bills but was not as vocal as the Web firms, while Apple was largely silent during the fight.

Cecilia Kang is a national technology reporter, writing about tech and Internet policies at the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission and how regulations affect businesses and consumers.
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