Some of the small firms said they had no knowledge they were included in the group.
As Congress debates laws that may affect giant internet corporations, Google and Amazon are apparently sponsoring a lobbying group that claims to represent small businesses, many of whom claim they are unaware they are members.
The Connected Commerce Council, a trade organization established in Washington, DC, advertises itself as a “non-profit membership organization” that represents the interests of small companies by offering information and digital technologies. Google and Amazon, who are identified as “partners” on 3C’s website, are the organization’s sole financial supporters, according to a 3C representative, CNBC reported this week.
In a response to CNET, 3C declined to comment on the list of small firms it claims to represent but stated that its efforts benefit businesses who lack the time or money to engage in public policy discussions. Policymakers would not grasp the impact of legislation if 3C was not present.
“This is the law for the ‘digital economy,’ with far-reaching ramifications and potentially fatal unintended effects,” 3C Executive Director Rob Retzlaff said in a statement. Retzlaff stated that small firms that utilize platforms like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Instagram should be aware of future laws. “When they realize how this legislation would harm Amazon Prime and Google Maps/Search, both of which are extremely essential to small companies, they are understandably upset and ready to contact Congress.”
Several small-business owners told CNBC that they had no idea their firms were members of 3C. “Astroturfing” refers to the practice of larger companies posing as smaller firms and associations in order to gain favor in Washington.
In a response to CNET, Google did not discuss its partnership with 3C. However, the search engine giant stated that it has heard from small companies that were concerned about measures in Congress and how their digital capabilities would be impacted.
“We encourage concerned companies and the groups that represent them to persuade Congress to take into account the unexpected repercussions of these measures for small businesses throughout the country,” Google spokesperson José Castaeda said in a statement.
Amazon did not reply to a comment request.
The purported lobbying campaign comes as Big Tech attempts to affect public opinion ahead of legislation in Congress. The legislation is intended to encourage competition, and it may have an impact on how Big Tech interacts with and competes with smaller enterprises.
One proposed regulation would prohibit Amazon from preferring its own items above those of third-party partners, and Google from putting its own apps higher than those of other firms.
According to 3C, if the law is approved, it will have an influence on how small businesses interact with Google, Amazon, and other firms, as well as the free resources these companies give. Gmail accounts are among the options available to assist businesses in being more prominent in search results.
Despite the fact that several of the small firms CNBC met with were unaware they were 3C members, other companies indicated support for the organization’s agenda. Some small company owners told CNBC that they appreciate 3C’s efforts to keep them updated about laws, advocate for a healthy partnership with Big Tech corporations, and create possibilities for socialization online during the epidemic.
According to CNBC, payment processor Block, formerly known as Square, is a member of 3C. Block informed CNBC that it was not a member, and 3C later deleted a mention of the firm from its website.
Facebook was supposed to be a partner in 2020, but it isn’t right now. A request for comment was not returned by the corporation.