Some smaller organizations said they had no idea they were part of the group.
While Congress is debating legislation that could affect giant Internet corporations, Google and Amazon are apparently sponsoring a lobbying group that claims to represent small businesses, many of which claim they are not members.
The Connected Commerce Council, a Washington, D.C.-based business organization, advertises itself as a “non-profit membership organization” representing the interests of small companies offering information and digital technology. Google and Amazon, identified as “partners” on 3C’s website, are the only financial backers of the company, according to a 3C representative, CNBC reported this week.
In a response to CNET, 3C declined to comment on the list of small companies it claims to represent, but said its efforts would benefit businesses that lack the time or money to engage in public policy discussions. If 3C is not present, policy makers will not understand the effect of the law.
“This is the law of the ‘digital economy’, which has far-reaching implications and potentially serious unintended consequences,” 3C executive director Rob Ratzlaf said in a statement. Retzlaf said small companies that use platforms like Google, Amazon, Facebook and Instagram should be aware of future laws. “Once they understand how this law will hurt Amazon Prime and Google Maps / Search, both of which are essential for small companies, they are understandably annoyed and ready to communicate with Congress.”
Several small business owners have told CNBC that they have no idea that their companies are members of 3C. “Astroturfing” refers to presenting large companies as small firms and associations in order to gain favor in Washington.
In a CNET response, Google did not discuss its partnership with 3C. However, the search engine giant said it heard from small companies who were concerned about the congressional system and how it would affect their digital capabilities.
Google spokesman Jose Casteda said in a statement: “We urge the companies concerned and their representations to persuade Congress to consider the unforeseen consequences of these measures for small businesses across the country.”
Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.
The so-called lobbying campaign comes at a time when the Big Tech Congress is trying to influence public opinion before enacting legislation. The law is intended to encourage competition and to influence how Big Tech interacts and competes with small enterprises.
A proposed regulation would prohibit Amazon from liking its own items over third-party partners, and would prevent Google from elevating its own apps over other companies.
According to 3C, if the law is approved, it will affect how small businesses interact with Google, Amazon and other companies, as well as the free resources that these companies provide. Among the options available to help businesses become more prominent in search results are Gmail accounts.
Despite knowing that some of the smaller companies that CNBC met with were not 3C members, other companies have indicated they support the agency’s agenda. Some small company owners have told CNBC that they appreciate 3C’s efforts to keep their laws up to date, in favor of a healthy partnership with big tech corporations and to create the possibility of online socialization during the epidemic.
According to CNBC, the payment processor block, formerly known as Square, is a member of 3C. Block told CNBC that it was not a member and removed the firm’s reference from its website after 3C.
It was supposed to be a partner of Facebook in 2020, but it is not happening now. A request for comment has not been returned by the corporation.