Technology giants Microsoft, Google, and Facebook have all made recent announcements that they have or are leaving the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the corporatist group that puts out pro-business model legislation to shape state policy and laws to benefit Big Business.
Now the online giant Yelp is joining them.
Internet powerhouse Yelp, which specializes in helping consumers find products and services in their communities, confirmed Wednesday that it has found its way out of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
“Yelp is not a member of ALEC,” said Luther Lowe, the company’s public policy director. The firm’s membership in the lobbying organization expired and Yelp decided to sever connections with ALEC several months ago, he added.
Yelp’s departure is the third major withdrawal from ALEC to be announced or confirmed this week. Each of the firms involved, Google, Facebook and now Yelp, is a major force online. Founded in 2004, Yelp reported revenues of nearly $233 million in 2013 and a monthly average of 138 million users in the second quarter of 2014.
“Yelp’s departure confirms what we’ve known for some time: it’s not good business to be involved with ALEC,” said Arn Pearson, Common Cause’s vice president for policy and litigation. “State legislators and the officers and directors of every company involved with this organization need to take a hard look at their participation; their involvement is in neither their shareholders’ interest, nor the public interest.”
This is nothing short of draining the swamp to fortify our American democracy against those who make it a corporatocracy.
Will Yahoo! be next? They are the remaining internet powerhouse who still pays dues to ALEC.
UPDATE: Here is Yelp’s official statement on the matter:
Yelp allowed its membership in ALEC to expire months ago and we did not join Google in Dallas at the meeting in July. When we joined in 2013 we were very specific and transparent about our goals: to encourage the adoption of model anti-SLAPP legislation. Anti-SLAPP laws make it tough to bring meritless lawsuits against individuals that have shared their honest opinions online. It should be no surprise that at Yelp, we’re highly supportive of any effort to promote and protect free speech online; we advocate for free speech on both sides of the aisle. We found ALEC provided a unique forum to bring a good idea to the table. Our approach was not without irony and it invited a backlash, yet to ALEC’s credit, our model bill passed unanimously: the Public Participation Protection Act — a model bill we advanced to protect consumers from bullying — is live on ALEC.org today, and we hope lawmakers in states across the country are able to draw inspiration from it for years to come. Given that our very specific goal was achieved, we allowed our membership to expire.
Amidst the backlash to our joining, we had a direct conversation with the ALEC leadership and encouraged more transparency within the organization. Specifically, we suggested ALEC invite C-SPAN to fully cover their meetings. Such sunlight on the organization would exert important pressure on ALEC to steer clear of controversial issues it has taken up in the past, while revealing to the broader public that providing a forum for policy makers and industry leaders to collaborate can result in consumer benefit (as was our experience).