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More Government Special Treatment for Big Internet Companies – Part 8 Internet as Oz Series

More evidence continues to surface that Big Internet companies expect and seek exceptional special treatment from Government that other companies simply do not expect or seek.

Seeking special tax-free-free-lunches for the .01%? The WSJ spotlights a “Mouthwatering Tax Break;” Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Zynga and other Big Internet companies enjoy – taxpayer-subsidized free food. American taxpayers subsidize a significant part of Big Internet employees’ free lunches, breakfasts and dinners, because Big Internet companies uniquely claim that this exceptionally-generous employee perk is not taxable compensation. Apparently, Google’s most aggressive ‘three-gourmet-meals-every-day’ tax break has replaced the tax abuse of yesteryear -- the ‘three-martini-lunch.’ (Tellingly, this claimed special tax treatment comes on the heels of Google’s most aggressive treatment of tax shelters, which has enabled Google to pay the lowest foreign tax rate of all U.S. tech companies, 2.4%.)   

Seeking special exemptions from EEO hiring transparency requirements? A recent Senator’s letter to DHS asks if there is gender bias in the application for, or granting of, H-1B visas that are keeping women out of high-tech STEM fields. During the debate over immigration reform where Big Internet firms are pushing hard for more H-1B visas, it is interesting that Google and Yahoo among others have sought and successfully gotten a Labor Department special exemption to not report the gender and racial makeup of their companies, based on the special claim that the makeup of their workforce is a trade secret. It will be interesting to learn if Big Internet companies, who want special treatment from the Government in the immigration reform legislative process, can justify and sustain their special treatment in not reporting their companies’ gender and racial diversity.    

Seeking another special exemption from standard cyber-security responsibilities?  Big Internet companies have been taking an uncharacteristically low profile in the House markup of CISPA, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, that other affected industries are supporting strongly. The obvious reason is that the Big Internet lobby wants to maintain the special exemption it received from the standard cyber-security obligations in the Administration’s February cyber-security Executive Order (See section 9a). Is there any plausible policy reason, other than political special treatment, that the Big Internet companies with the most: cyber-users, cyber-products, cyber-services, essential cyber-platforms, and cyber-vulnerabilities should be the only affected corporations that are exempt from otherwise standard national cyber-security legislation? How does it make any sense for the biggest U.S. Internet companies to be exempt from America’s Internet cyber-security legislation?  

Seeking a special exemption from political campaign finance rules? Last week we learned some of the most remarkable evidence of the Big Internet Lobby’s inherent expectation for political special treatment, and to be exempt effectively from many political/campaign financing and lobbying disclosure laws, that other industries and companies must comply with. Politico got access to a prospectus for a Big Internet political organizing effort, by Facebook, Zynga, Linkedin, Twitter and others, to organize their interests to influence comprehensive immigration reform and other legislation.

Politico quoted the group’s organizing memo:

Under a section called “our tactical assets,” the prospectus lists three reasons why “people in tech” can be organized into “one of the most powerful political forces.”

  1. “We control massive distribution channels, both as companies and individuals. We saw the tip of the iceberg with SOPA/PIPA.
  2. Our voice carries a lot of weight because we are broadly popular with Americans.
  3. We have individuals with a lot of money. If deployed properly, this can have a huge influence in the current campaign finance environment.”…

We have the ability to build a database of interested parties who will post to their distribution channels when issue campaigns arise…” “…we control the avenues of distribution.” …

…“We have assembled the best people and most funding on this issue, and will win by focusing or activity in the districts of key members of Congress and Senators…”   

Interestingly Politico mentioned that “all twelve founders, the group’s four political hires and CEO were all men.”

Seeking a special exemption from consumers’ right to know? The WSJ reports that Big Internet companies (Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Amazon, eBay, etc.) oppose a California Right to Know Act that would grant consumers a right to know what private information Internet companies have on a private individual, who they share it with and for what purposes. It is analogous to a consumer’s right to know what credit reporting information has been collected on them and who has requested to see it. Remarkably, Big Internet companies who routinely represent themselves as working for users and committed to consumers’ best interests claim that the only person they don’t want to share private information with is the actual individual affected or at risk? If Big Internet companies, which routinely lobby for others to be more open and transparent than they are, are in fact operating in the users’ best interest, why would they oppose on principle a consumer’s right to know about what affects them and their family?

Could it be that these Big Internet companies do not want anyone to know how these companies use their private information for political or other non-business purposes? Do they fear a consumer could prove to be a proverbial canary in the coal mine in detecting objectionable, illegal or political uses of their private information without their knowledge or permission? If Big Internet companies are in fact abiding by their privacy policies and terms of service, what do they have to fear from user accountability?  

In sum, the evidence continues to pile up that the Big Internet Lobby already enjoys most special treatment from Government, and that it is actively seeking much more special treatment from the Government that would be unavailable to other corporations or citizens.

And from what we have learned recently about aspirations to create a Big Internet political machine, the Big Internet Lobby is fully aware of the powerful political “tactical assets” they uniquely enjoy to secure even more special treatment from the Government in the future.

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Internet as Oz Series:

Part 1: The New Internet Association's Back Story

Part 2: Top False Claims of the New Internet Association

Part 3: Internet Astroturf 3.0

Part 4: Google Official Praises 'Partly Free' Regime's Privacy Law

Part 5: Could Google Be the Lance Armstrong of Tech?

Part 6: The Google Lobby Defines Big Internet’s Policy Agenda

Part 7: Big Internet’s Most Special Interests