After Microsoft and Uber Flee, The Internet Association Logs Off

The Internet Association is ready to delete its account. The trade group founded in 2012 to be the “unified voice of the Internet economy in Washington” won’t see 2022.

“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,” reads a statement posted on IA’s site.

Politico’s Emily Birnbaum flagged the impending shutdown in a post Tuesday that cited the November departures of Microsoft and Uber as back-breakers for an organization already facing grumpiness from member firms that saw it missing from tech antitrust debates.

Things had looked brighter for IA at its September 2012 launch, when the new group—with founding members Amazon, AOL, eBay, Expedia, Facebook, Google, IAC, LinkedIn, Monster Worldwide, Rackspace, salesforce.com, TripAdvisor, Yahoo!, and Zynga—debuted as an online-first counterpart to such older organizations as the Consumer Technology Association (the electronics-industry group that runs CES) and the more telecom-oriented Computer & Communications Industry Association.

IA worked to put itself on the policy map with position papers and the lobbying staples of a lavish awards dinner (at the 2018 gala, the Amazon-sponsored “Two Day Sipping” was an inspired cocktail name) and a well-catered conference (2018’s Virtuous Circle event saw IAC chair Barry Diller advise traditional media to welcome Facebook and Google as their new tech overlords, saying “You can be a serf on their land!”). 

But the association burned some bridges by choosing to back legislation that became the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017—abbreviated to FOSTA—when President Trump signed it in 2018. 

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This bill revised Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the law holding online forums generally immune for their users’ posts, to make them liable for content promoting or easing prostitution and sex trafficking. In June 2021, the Government Accountability Office reported that federal prosecutors had only filed one case under FOSTA; news reports suggest FOSTA’s suppression of existing online platforms endangered sex workers. 

IA lost a few more friends by bestowing Ivanka Trump its “Internet Freedom Award” at its 2019 gala (at which it also gave House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a “Lifetime Achievement Award”). This exercise in currying favor with the Trump family drew widespread scorn on Twitter—an IA member for the next two weeks and change.

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