The latest list of the 10 worst proposed Internet laws is out, and topping it are efforts by state legislators to derail disruptive business models such as Airbnb.com and Uber.com.
NetChoice, a Washington, D.C., coalition that includes Facebook, eBay, VeriSign, and Yahoo as members, today plans to release its updated "iAWFUL" list of misguided, nutty, or simply counterproductive laws. On NetChoice's worst-of-the-worst list:
• Uber.com, an online and mobile-device service for finding a car service, has been curbed by city taxi commissions who cite "hack" laws to preserve their monopolies.
• Airbnb.com, an online service that allows you to rent your home for short periods of time, faces challenges from regulators in Iowa, who want Airbnb to be regulated as a travel service. New York lawmakers moved to impose hotel regulations on individual homeowners using Airbnb.
• Users of TrueCar.com have bought over half a million cars from local dealer partners who received pricing inquiries from fully-informed consumers ready to explore a no-haggle deal. And dealers were glad to pay TrueCar only when they actually made a sale. But state auto regulators suspect that's just too good to be true, and that legacy consumer protection laws might actually prohibit this kind of online innovation.
Other iAWFUL finalists: a proposal from Sen. Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, who wants to slap more regulations on mobile devices; a lobbying effort to tax digital downloads; the White House's privacy bill of rights that would curb "the behavioral advertising that pays for much of the Internet's free content."
Not making the list is the Stop Online Piracy Act or its Senate equivalent, called the Protect IP Act.
That may be because the bills were yanked from House and Senate calendars after January's historic online protest--which included Wikipedia going dark for a day, alerts appearing on the home page of Google.com and Amazon.com, and so on.
But the legislation's supporters have vowed not to give up the fight. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, has called Protect IP an "extremely important" piece of legislation and said he wants to move forward. And Protect IP's author, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said in January that he still hopes "to send a bill to the president's desk this year."