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IBM steps up its fight against web platforms

The IBM logo on a pillar
IBM has taken positions against big web platforms of late. Photo: Paco Freire/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

IBM is picking up its fight against the big web platforms by endorsing legislation to regulate digital ads and fighting to keep liability protections out of a renegotiated trade agreement.

Why it matters: IBM is one of several big corporate players who have taken advantage of rising anti-big-tech sentiment to build their own profile. IBM’s Chris Padilla says that with recent efforts they want to “show responsible stewardship as we usher in new technologies to help business and society work smarter.”

The details:

  • Padilla said in a blog post that the company was backing the Honest Ads Act, which institutes new disclosure requirements for online political advertising.
  • The company is also arguing that platforms shouldn’t be shielded in a new version of the North American Free Trade Agreement from being sued over user-generated content, the same sort of immunity currently being litigated in Congress as part of a debate over anti-trafficking bills. “It simply does not make sense to export a legal model that is increasingly being questioned here at home,” Padilla said.
  • “Yet unlike those [the phone, newspaper and television industry], internet media companies are subject to little regulation, and enjoy a nearly total exemption from legal liability for what happens on their platforms,” he said. “Over the last year, it has become increasingly clear that something is out of balance in that equation.”

Yes, but: IBM loses nothing by weighing in on regulations that won't affect their own business — and doesn't face particularly tight regulations, either.

The bigger picture: Legacy companies like IBM, Oracle, 21st Century Fox and AT&T taking advantage of new concerns about web firm like Google and Facebook to hit their Silicon Valley competition where it hurts in Washington.

This post has been updated with more information from IBM's blog post.