Dec 15, 2021 - Technology

Internet Association, once a top tech lobby, to fold at end of year

Illustration of a bandaged hand cursor
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The Internet Association (IA), once the tech industry's top lobbying shop in Washington, representing companies such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft, will close by the end of the year, its board announced Wednesday.

Driving the news: IA's board voted Wednesday morning to dissolve the organization. A source familiar with the situation, who alerted Axios to the pending vote on Tuesday, described it as a formality, with the decision already made.

  • Microsoft's departure, first reported by Axios, made the decision imminent, and put the other members in a precarious financial position. Uber recently left the organization as well.
  • Politico first reported the news that IA would dissolve

Why it matters: IA was once a highly influential group, fighting for policy to help internet companies grow with limited government regulation. It described itself as the "unified voice of the internet economy." That unified voice simply doesn't exist anymore.

  • While the IA has historically avoided working in the areas of antitrust and competition, many of its top members are now in the crosshairs of antitrust investigations and proposed bills around the world. All the while, its members constantly compete with one another.
  • The organization has long worked to promote the importance of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the law that shields tech from most liability from third-party posts, but members were increasingly at odds over that policy and legislative paths forward.

Details: IA has seen steadily waning influence in D.C. in recent years, as Axios previously reported.

  • Former president Michael Beckerman is now at TikTok. Current CEO Dane Snowden came from a cable lobbying group.

What they're saying: The source familiar with the situation said Microsoft's departure made keeping the association going unviable, put it in a financial crisis, and that paralysis on big policy issues bogged the organization down.

  • "What was once a leading voice for tech companies is fading into obscurity with barely a whimper and hardly anything to show for itself," one former employee told Axios.
  • “Our industry has undergone tremendous growth and change since the Internet Association was formed almost 10 years ago, and in line with this evolution, the Board has made the difficult decision to close the organization at the end of this year," IA's board of directors said in a statement.
  • "As this chapter closes, member companies remain committed to advancing public policy in support of this mission and will continue to work with stakeholders in other capacities.” 

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include a statement from the Internet Association's board and reflect that it voted to dissolve the organization.

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