NBC News: After years of big spending, tech’s political machine turns to high gear

NBC News, July 3, 2019: After years of big spending, tech’s political machine turns to high gear

When Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., introduced legislation last month aimed at major technology companies, a near-endless parade of groups quickly voiced disapproval. There was plenty of pushback from tech advocacy groups.

TechFreedom, a tech-focused Washington nonprofit, said the proposal would “set up a partisan bloodmatch” between big companies and regulators. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a tech-focused civil liberties nonprofit, said it would “let the government decide who speaks.” Engine Advocacy, an organization that advocates for policies that help startups, said the legislation, “in an effort to address a nonexistent problem” would “dismantle the sensible regulatory regime that is responsible for the development of the Internet.” The Computer & Communications Industry Association said the bill would set up “government censorship of online speech” and limit freedom.

Those concerns were echoed by a litany of conservative and libertarian-leaning think tanks. Libertarian think tank R Street said the legislation “hurts conservatives” while the Competitive Enterprise Institute, another conservative think tank, said it was “highly regulatory and should be rejected.” The Cato Institute and the American Enterprise Institute also came out against the bill.

Every one of those think tanks and advocacy groups is backed by Google, Facebook or both. The companies are not only two of the main targets of Hawley’s bill, but they’re also the focus of broader political scrutiny that now spans both parties and has spilled over into the Democratic presidential race.

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