November 7, 2017 |

Barriers to digital trade threaten U.S. internet’s success abroad

IA recently completed its yearly assessment of barriers to digital trade that American exporters face around the globe. In comments to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), IA identified over 100 government measures in more than 40 foreign markets that are limiting, restricting, or outright blocking American internet-enabled exporters. Barriers to digital trade – including data flow restrictions, unbalanced copyright and liability regimes, restrictive regulation of online services, and a number of new emerging problematic foreign measures – continue to threaten American leadership on digital trade and the enormous potential of the digital economy.

The internet sector is a key driver of the U.S. economy, with internet industries representing an estimated 6 percent of U.S. GDP, totaling nearly $1 trillion. The industry now accounts for more than 10.4 million American jobs, 86 percent of which are outside major tech hubs. U.S. industries – small and large – once locked out of trade, are using internet-enabled tools to reach foreign markets and customers in ways never imagined, even a decade ago.

Yet as the internet becomes ubiquitous to trade, many countries are now taking starkly different approaches to the laws and regulations that affect the internet, creating conflict with the U.S. legal frameworks that have allowed digital trade to thrive. In just three years, there has been a significant drop-off in the number of the world’s top internet companies that are based in the U.S. To maintain U.S. leadership, IA encourages USTR to redouble efforts to preserve and expand the internet’s role as a key driver of U.S. exports, job creation, and economic development by making digital trade a top priority in the 2018 National Trade Estimate Report.

In this year’s comments, IA identified barriers to digital trade in key markets – from unbalanced copyright and liability regimes in the EU (including Spain, Germany, and France), Australia, Brazil, Colombia, India, and Ukraine to restrictions on U.S. cloud services providers in China, to regulations on so-called “over-the-top” (OTT) services in Brazil, Colombia, the EU, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Thailand, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe. IA also highlighted a number of emerging measures governments are proposing such as local presence and/or partnership requirements and forced transfers of technology, encryption keys, source code, and algorithms that continue to act as burdensome market access barriers. These barriers often play a direct role in how IA members decide to expand in foreign markets, pursue new customers, expand operations, and decide to monetize products and services. In some cases, due to these barriers, companies have been forced to abandon key foreign market all together.

In addition to engaging directly with our trading partners on these barriers, IA believes USTR should use ongoing and future trade negotiations to fight for a clear set of rules for how governments treat digital trade. For example, updating NAFTA represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to both establish common rules for the North American market and set the precedent for future U.S. trade agreements. With this in mind, IA strongly urges USTR to prioritize digital trade in NAFTA modernization talks by seeking strong commitments on data flows and restrictions on server localization; intermediary liability protections; customs modernization; and balanced copyright – including copyright safe harbors and limitations and exceptions for the digital environment – that reflect U.S. law. IA believes an updated NAFTA must benefit all U.S. stakeholders, not just some at the expense of others.

IA looks forward to working with USTR in the coming year to continue addressing foreign barriers to digital trade.

October 19, 2017 | Article

Internet Association Applauds Signing of California State Senator Bradford’s SB 182, Which Helps Ridesharing Drivers By Easing Administrative Burdens and Protecting Their Privacy

On October 13, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 182, a bill which marks a big step forward for ridesharing in California. SB 182 will ease administrative and financial burdens on transportation network company (TNC) drivers by allowing them to obtain only a single business license in order to operate in the entire state.

California’s current business licensure requirements do not meet today’s reality of internet-enabled ridesharing. Drivers for TNC platforms are inherently mobile and often cross through multiple municipal jurisdictions when picking up and dropping off riders. As a result, drivers unknowingly may have been subject to different business licenses, fees, and requirements as they drive through multiple cities. These licensing laws did not anticipate the advent of internet-enabled ridesharing and have created serious compliance burdens for Californians who are using these platforms to help make ends meet.

SB 182 provides the solution by allowing TNC drivers to obtain a single business license where they are domiciled in order to operate in California.

SB 182 also protects the privacy of drivers by preventing the personal information they’ve submitted to a local jurisdiction to get a business license from being disclosed on a public website. Combined, these changes will help modernize the state’s business license laws to meet the realities of the digital age and protect workers in the 21st Century workforce.

Internet-enabled ridesharing has made transportation more affordable, convenient, and accessible than ever before. SB 182’s updates to existing business license requirements will ensure that outdated business license laws do not put this important economic lifeline at risk for drivers throughout California.

Internet Association was pleased to sponsor SB 182 and sincerely thanks Senator Steven Bradford for his great leadership throughout the legislative process and Governor Jerry Brown for approving the measure.

October 6, 2017 | Article

Cloud First Must Be More Than A Slogan

Internet Association believes in the power of cloud computing to improve government processes and maximize the impact of each taxpayer dollar. IA is proud to represent world-class cloud providers with a relentless focus on helping federal, state, and local governments do just that. That’s why it was disappointing to see the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently issue a Request for Information that failed to even acknowledge the possibility of a cloud-first approach.

Since 2011, the Cloud First policy for government procurement has directed U.S. agencies to prioritize secure cloud solutions when making new investments. This mandate reflects the fact that leading cloud providers offer best-in-class capabilities for achieving not only cost savings and efficiency gains, but real security advantages. It is therefore no surprise that Congress doubled down on the cloud push with 2014 legislation, or that the current administration is embracing public cloud services as it pursues urgent cybersecurity goals.

But cloud adoption still lags across federal departments and independent agencies. While this transition may at one time have seemed daunting, today it is clear that the true costs and risks lay in failing to move forward.

Public cloud solutions from federally-certified providers enable agencies to focus on their missions even as they improve asset utilization, consolidate duplicative systems, and gain speed and agility in provisioning IT resources. They allow agencies to benefit from private sector innovation while removing barriers to their own experimentation and erasing constraints around limited or inflexible technical capacity. And this typically occurs as costs fall, a key objective given growing public dismay that too much of the federal government’s $80 billion-plus IT budget is spent simply maintaining obsolete systems.

Today it is well understood that leading cloud providers offer superior built-in compliance and audit controls, continuous security upgrades, and a wealth of industry-recognized certifications. The size and scale of these vendors also ensures constant security innovation and protection against attacks that would cripple a smaller network of data centers.

Both public and private entities like the CIA and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) have turned to commercial cloud providers for this very reason. FINRA, a private body protecting investors from fraud and other wrongdoing in the securities industry, relies on these tools to securely process 37 billion records each day. FINRA’s move is part of a wider push into the cloud by the financial services industry and its overseers. These groups often manage vast quantities of sensitive information and come under frequent cyber-attack. Rather than go it alone, they have endorsed the security and operational gains offered by public cloud options.

Federal agencies managing similar data sets ought to take note. As they plan their own cloud transitions and structure solicitations, these bodies must also favor outcomes-based targets over needlessly prescriptive dictates. Government clients should always request adequate documentation and be able to structure cloud-hosted applications and data based on their unique risk management priorities. But dictating technical procedures from the start prevents industry from achieving the desired ends through proven best practices.

As expectations rise and budgets shrink, agencies can no longer afford to simply default to yesterday’s technology. Public cloud solutions offer a compelling answer. Those planning IT expansions owe it to their internal stakeholders and to the taxpayer to closely consider them.

September 20, 2017 | Article

SESTA Hearing Highlighted By Willingness To Find Compromise

“At Internet Association, we stand behind the goals of SESTA [the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017]. We want to see an end to sex trafficking online.”

That quote, given as testimony by IA’s own Abigail Slater during yesterday’s Senate Commerce Committee hearing, reflects our collective commitment to end online sex trafficking.

Fortunately, yesterday’s hearing showed positive signs of things to come, with both lawmakers and industry actors indicating they are open to compromise in order to achieve the mutual goal of ending child sex trafficking. It is essential that any bill allows Internet Association members to continue their significant efforts with law enforcement, anti-trafficking groups, and victims to confront this problem without unforeseen new liability.

IA reaffirmed in testimony yesterday its commitment to working with the Senate Commerce Committee, sponsors of the bill, and individual Members on how we can improve language in SESTA. We also stand ready to support legislation to make it easier for victims of these crimes to seek justice and hold perpetrators accountable in criminal and civil court.

The internet industry is not alone in looking for solutions that can improve SESTA. In fact, a bipartisan group of key Senate Commerce Committee Members used yesterday’s hearing to call for compromise on SESTA. Lawmakers, including Commerce Committee Chairman Sen. John Thune (R-SD), Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH). Sen. Todd Young (R-IN), and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) highlighted the need for the legislation to achieve its desired effects while avoiding unintended consequences that would make solving the problem harder.

The internet industry stands ready to support a SESTA compromise that enables the crucial and ongoing fight against sex trafficking online. Internet Association looks forward to our continued engagement with lawmakers on this critical issue as we find ways in which all well-intentioned parties can agree on the details of legislation.

September 19, 2017 | Article

Working Together to Combat Sex Trafficking

Today, Internet Association will testify before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee on an critical issue to our nation: the effort to combat sex trafficking.

Internet Association member companies are 100 percent committed to the fight against sex trafficking. Criminal actors like Backpage.com must be fully and quickly brought to justice for their horrific crimes.

IA supports the goals of Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017 (S. 1693). The internet industry is actively working with the Senate on amendments that will ensure justice while also allowing the good actors IA represents to continue their efforts with law enforcement and NGOs to stop sex trafficking online. This can include targeted amendments to SESTA that allow victims to seek justice against perpetrators and bad actors that knowingly facilitating sex trafficking.

Legitimate internet companies are partners in the fight to combat sex trafficking. Technology is part of the solution to this problem, and our members have a long track record of working with law enforcement, anti-trafficking groups, and victims to stop illegal activity. Some examples of how we work together are provided in our testimony, and represent only a small snapshot of our companies’ work, which includes:

  • Robust community guidelines, internal policies, and proactive enforcement practices to remove content that promotes sex trafficking;
  • Working with law enforcement in all 50 states to actively take down illegal content and bring offenders to justice; and
  • Partnering with non-governmental organizations to help combat sex trafficking.

These efforts harness both significant financial resources from IA members and their engineering talent to help develop technological tools used to combat this heinous crime. For instance, the Spotlight tool developed by Thorn with support from several IA member companies. Spotlight is a web-based application used to detect and help rescue victims of sex trafficking. Today, Spotlight is used by 4,000 law enforcement officers at over 700 agencies nationwide. More importantly, it has been used to identify over 2,000 perpetrators of sex trafficking.

The internet industry remains committed to the fight to end human trafficking. We do not have to choose between justice against Backpage.com and protecting legitimate online services. This is not a binary choice.

There is also no single solution to this terrible problem. The fight against trafficking requires a multipronged approach and a committed partnership between the government and private sector to succeed. We look forward to continuing our work with Congress to improve SESTA to ensure victims get justice and we can ensure there are no future victims.

 

July 17, 2017 | Events, Virtuous Circle

Virtuous Circle on the Hill Recap

Internet Association President & CEO Michael Beckerman welcomed guests to the VC on the Hill conference, highlighting the ties between IA’s annual Virtuous Circle event in California and the day’s event in DC to bring together thought leaders on innovation policy.

Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) gave a keynote address emphasizing the ongoing importance of net neutrality rules for online platforms. Congresswoman Eshoo also emphasized the need to ensure digital issues remain bipartisan issues, and recognized the ongoing need for more high skilled immigration to ensure the best and brightest remain in the US.

Senator Ron Wyden delivered a keynote address on the state of digital trade, calling for an updated NAFTA framework that includes key provisions for the digital economy, including modern customs rules, balanced IP framework, and intermediary liability protections modeled after Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

A panel of IA companies, including Etsy, eBay, Google, and Amazon, discussed opportunities for new digital trade provisions in the upcoming NAFTA negotiation. Etsy, Amazon and eBay highlighted the need for small sellers to be able to cross borders without onerous customs provisions, and all companies emphasized the need for the free flow of data and balanced IP.

Senator Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV) discussed the importance of the internet to businesses nationwide, highlighting her focus on broadband access as a new member of the Senate Commerce Committee as well as the Capito Connect Initiative in her home state.

IA Chief Economist Christopher Hooton presented the findings of a new report from NERA on the economic value of the U.S. safe harbors, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and Section 512 of the Copyright Act. A panel of experts from R Street, Engine, FreedomWorks, and the Center for Democracy and Technology discussed the ongoing need for both safe harbors to remain robust for the promotion of innovation and creativity. The panel agreed that US leadership in this area was critical for both free speech and startup growth, and agreed that even attempted to “narrowly” amend the laws would undermine positive growth for the online ecosystem.

Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) discussed the ongoing need to innovate here in the US and around the world, advocating for free trade agreements and a strong commitment to free market development of new idea and technologies.

Online sellers and micro businesses held a luncheon discussion about the ability to engage in the flexible economy through online platforms. Participants highlighted that opportunities provided by the gig economy allowed them to supplement earning potential with the freedom to chose their own hours according to individual needs, and the ease of entering into these new ventures was a key driver of their success.

IA Senior Vice President Gina Woodworth led a fireside chat with Matt Lira, Special Assistant to the President for Innovation Policy and Initiatives. Matt highlighted that the White House’s tech week in June was the start of a continuing dialogue over how to modernize government and harness the power of technology to improve operations. Matt also emphasized the importance of an inclusive and robust conversation with thought leaders and technologists to achieve shared goals across the political spectrum.

 

July 17, 2017 |

Net Neutrality Day Of Action Quick Recap

Our work to save net neutrality is not over, but with your help, the FCC has millions of new comments calling for the preservation of strong net neutrality rules.

We wanted to take a minute to thank everyone who visited IA on the Net Neutrality Day of Action to help preserve the free and open internet.

If you didn’t get a chance to file a comment yet, it’s not too late! Just visit IADayofAction.org and follow the instructions at the bottom of the page.

Stay tuned as we continue defend a free and open internet. You’ll hear from us when we have updates on net neutrality or other internet issues, livestreamed interviews with policymakers, or anything else we think you might be interested in.

July 6, 2017 | Article

Eliminating Internet Safe Harbors Hurts The U.S. Economy

One of the most important parts of the internet – and what makes it so attractive and useful to so many people – is the ability to search for and store information at the click of a button. Intermediary liability safe harbors play a critical role in making that possible.These safe harbors protect internet platforms (called intermediaries) – such as Google, Dropbox, Facebook, Snap, among others – from being held liable for the content of their users, ensuring consumers can experience the internet that we’ve come to know and love.

Put in place in 1996 and 1998 respectively, Congress established two intermediary safe harbors – Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and Section 512 of the Copyright Act enacted by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act – to create space for innovation and spur investment to further develop the internet’s capabilities.

So what would happen if they disappeared?

New economic analysis from NERA Economic Consulting took a look at the very question by estimating the impact of reducing the protections offered by safe harbor laws.

The analysis finds weakening intermediary liability safe harbor protections would significantly reduce economic activity in the internet sector, causing the U.S. economy to lose 4.25 million jobs and nearly half a trillion dollars in the next 10 years. That’s equivalent to giving away the annual GDP of Iceland, Jamaica, and Nicaragua combined and firing all McDonald’s workers in the U.S each year.

As one of America’s most dynamic and successful industries, the internet sector is driving economic growth, doubling its share of the U.S. economy between 2007 and 2014. Reducing liability protections not only hurts the internet sector; it harms the entire U.S. economy.

To quantify the impact of making intermediaries responsible for all user content, researchers used consumer surveys focused on two internet intermediary services – search engine and cloud storage – to calculate the average decrease in consumer use of these services and resulting estimated decrease in revenue. The findings? The fall in consumer demand due to more advertisements (in search engines) and higher costs (for cloud services) would result in a combined 10 percent revenue drop for these services, resulting in lost jobs and reduced economic activity.

But internet intermediaries include far more than these two services; they span data storage, internet access, internet telephony, cloud computing, social media, internet advertising, and e-commerce to name a few. The NERA analysis applies the 10 percent revenue drop as an indicator of the economic impact to the entire internet sector, of which search engine and cloud services make up only 18 percent.

By applying the findings to all intermediaries, the study finds that without internet liability:

  • The U.S. economy would lose an estimated $44 billion in GDP & more than 425,000 jobs each year. That’s equivalent to giving away the annual GDP of Iceland, Jamaica, and Nicaragua combined and firing all McDonald’s workers in the U.S.
  • Internet startups would face higher entry costs, limiting innovation. Without intermediary liability safe harbors, startups – and the VC’s that fund them – won’t be able to test new ideas without facing unreasonable liability and high expenses.
  • Consumers would face higher costs and worsened online user experience. It is economically and technologically unfeasible for platforms to screen third-party content at scale. Loss of the intermediary liability safe harbors would mean fewer and worse services online.

Safe harbor protections were put in place for a reason. With a thriving internet economy, American businesses and consumers are able to connect with billions of people to access and share information. Even more, they are now depending on services such as ride-sharing apps, e-commerce sites, and social media – all of which are enabled by an internet that allows for free expression and content creation.

Safe harbor laws provide a foundation for innovation and drive economic growth. Preserving them is key to ensuring the best internet and economy for America.

Read NERA’s full report here.

WATCH: #NetNeutrality & Your Internet Service Provider: An Investment Story: http://bit.ly/2qZgq2c

RELEASE: Internet Association Outlines Priorities For NAFTA Modernization bit.ly/2sOjhYb #digital #trade

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