July 30, 2012, 3:35 PM

Internet companies forge three new industry groups

They are backed by big names such as Facebook, Google and eBay.

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Many of their members are the same—companies including Google Inc., eBay Inc. and Facebook Inc.—but three new industry groups formed in recent weeks—the Internet Association, TruST and the Ads Integrity Alliance—have distinct slants on how to make the Internet friendly to both online businesses and consumers.

The newest of the three, the Internet Association, announced on July 25 that it will launch in September as “the first trade association representing the interests of the Internet economy and America’s leading Internet companies.” But it also contends it will represent the wide scope of small as well as large businesses impacted by what happens on the Internet.

“The Internet isn’t just Silicon Valley anymore; the Internet has moved to Main Street,” Michael Beckerman, who has been named the group’s CEO, said in a statement released with the launch announcement. “Our top priority is to ensure that elected leaders in Washington understand the profound impacts of the Internet and Internet companies.”

Beckerman did not immediately return a call for more details about the group’s membership and agenda. But people familiar with the group say its members include Amazon.com Inc., Google, eBay and Facebook, and that among its main initiatives will be to support “net neutrality” and to oppose pending federal anti-piracy legislation. Net neutrality aims to ensure telecommunications companies provide access on equal terms to all web sites, including those with lots of bandwidth-clogging video content. Anti-piracy legislation seeks to prevent the sale of counterfeit goods, a stance supported by many retailers, but opponents contend the legislation under discussion would give authorities too much leeway to shut down web sites based on complaints from copyright holders.

A spokeswoman for Amazon, No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500, declined to comment. Google and eBay did not immediately return requests for comment. A Facebook spokesman said: “We are not prepared to comment on our membership at this time. However, it is clear that the Internet needs a voice in Washington and the formation of the Internet Association is a welcome development.”

TrUST, or the True Simplification of Taxation Coalition, was launched July 23 by three retail industry groups opposed to online sales tax: NetChoice, whose members include Overstock.com Inc., No. 27 in the Internet Retailer Top 500, eBay and Facebook; the Direct Marketing Association, which represents direct-response marketers; and the American Catalog Mailers Association.

Pending federal legislation would require online retailers to collect sales tax whether or not they have a physical presence, such as stores or distribution centers, in the states of customers. TruST will advocate for a simplified sales tax system across the 45 states plus the District of Columbia that have sales tax. It contends that prior efforts to streamline sales tax rules across states and other local jurisdictions have been ineffective, and that any new federal legislation should ensure that retailers will not be overburdened by the cost of collecting sales tax and remitting it to states.

The Ads Integrity Alliance was announced June 14 as an initiative of StopBadware, an online industry group with roots at Harvard University and dedicated to preventing malicious software from infecting web sites.

The initial members of the Ads Integrity Alliance include Google, Facebook, Twitter Inc., AOL Inc. and the Interactive Advertising Bureau, a trade organization for online marketers.

The alliance says it will build on efforts already in place by its individual members to curtail the proliferation of “bad ads,” or online ads that may deliver malware, direct consumers to online scams, or try to sell counterfeit goods. Among its efforts will be to share information with the online advertising industry on the spread of harmful ads, develop and share new ways to prevent such ads, and share information with legislators and law enforcement agencies.

“Bad ads, such as those that facilitate malware distribution and deceive users, diminish the online use experience and threaten trust in the web,” says Eric Davis, global policy manager at Google. “The Ads Integrity Alliance will serve as a forum for us to work together to protect users from bad ads and strengthen trust in the advertising ecosystem.”

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