Once-powerful trade group Internet Association to dissolve at end of year, as Microsoft seeks to distance itself from competitors’ policies
The Internet Association, once a powerful Washington, D.C. lobbying group for the tech industry, is to shut down amidst reported tensions amongst its members.
The group cited “tremendous growth and change” in its decision to make the “difficult” decision to close the organisation, but gave no specific reason.
However, there have been widely reported tensions between the larger and smaller members of the group, and the departure of Microsoft and Uber this year contributed to financial shortfalls.
In particular, industry watchers noted that Microsoft, which along with Uber left the IA in November, has made increasing efforts to distance itself from Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook, all of which have faced increasing antitrust pressure from regulators.
“Microsoft has realised that it doesn’t want to be associated with Google, Facebook and Amazon,” Barry Lynn, executive director of anti-monopoly campaign group the Open Markets Institute, told the Financial Times.
Microsoft itself has managed to stay out of the regulatory spotlight in recent times, after a drawn-out antitrust battle in the 1990s and early 2000s that nearly led to its being broken up.
In a widely reported memo sent to staff in June, Microsoft president Brad Smith noted that “as a company, we will continue to be more focused on adapting to regulation than fighting against it”.
This strategy differs sharply from that of the other biggest tech companies, such as Amazon and Google, which spent far more than Microsoft on lobbying efforts in 2021, according to OpenSecrets, a database based on Senate records.
“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 organisation at the end of this year,” the Internet Association said in a statement.
The IA, with members amongst both large and small tech firms, has always steered clear of antitrust battles, even as these became the defining elements of the regulatory landscape.
Yelp’s senior vice president of public policy, Luther Lowe, argued the association was a victim of this policy, which left it unable to take sides in the antitrust debate.
“This org could’ve saved itself years ago by kicking out everyone with a market cap greater than $500b (ie GAFA),” Lowe said on Twitter, referring to Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon.
“I made this suggestion to the leadership a few years ago, but it was shot down, so we quit.”