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How Public Affairs Shapes And Regulates Digital Markets

Mar 16, 2024 Laura Garofalo

Now, more than ever, public policy shapes the future of our digital markets. Currently, it’s centered on copyright, privacy and security.

Whether you choose to engage or not, public policy will impact your business, and your bottom line. 

AI has taken over Washington D.C. with a frenzy and there’s a race to regulate—and it began with social media. 

CEO Maura Corbett of Glen Echo Group, our new public affairs partner, looks at AI as the real Web 3.0—not crypto, blockchain or the decentralized web—because it’s so transformative. It’s moving quickly and, in many ways, we’re not prepared. 

Her team focuses on building advocacy campaigns and coalitions around issues facing tech companies and organizations that could drastically affect innovation and corporate reputations. Think Google and Amazon, affordable broadband, cross-border privacy groups and numerous cybersecurity alliances.

Maura describes her firm’s work like this, “We make legal and regulatory issues understandable. It is incumbent upon us, as believers in the power of tech, to educate those making decisions so that we can make the digital, tech-enabled world better.” 

Recently, our CEO Beth Monaghan invited Maura to a live Q&A to better understand why public affairs should be a priority for all tech companies. Here are some top takeaways from that conversation: 

#1: PUT POLITICAL VIEWS ASIDE

Companies and business leaders may shy away from engaging in public policy because they don’t want to get mixed up in politics. Maura said, “You don’t have to take a political side to engage in a policy discussion—that’s a myth.” She also explained that the public policy community includes folks from the right, left or somewhere in the middle who deeply care about tech and want to ensure that it’s not weaponized so that the world can move forward. 

#2: INVEST IN EDUCATING POLICYMAKERS

Often, the people making decisions don’t understand the tech or issues surrounding it. They want to hear from companies and business leaders—and the voices of startups are often missing from these conversations. It’s critical for tech companies because regulatory work has an inherent tension for them. Maura said, “Tech always moves forward and the law always looks back. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

#3: CHANGE HAPPENS THROUGH COALITIONS

Moving an issue forward or preventing something from becoming a law takes a village. But, you must create that trusted space. Maura said, “You have to agree to work together in a coalition to get it done and be comfortable that there are groups and companies around the table that you will not agree with on anything.” Maura’s team specializes in bringing people together on issues and helps pre-IPO growth companies connect with trade associations like Engine Advocacy and Tech NYC to meet the right people to make real change happen. 

#4: ADVOCATE FOR FEDERAL PRIVACY LAWS

Privacy is regulated in different ways across different states and countries, making it a regulatory nightmare for many tech companies. “AI might be the thing that creates the momentum to get federal privacy laws,” said Maura. 

#5: PROTECT THE LIABILITY SHIELD

Right now, tech companies moderate content on their digital channels for things like violence and racism. However, newly introduced legislation could change everything. Companies that have a website want to keep that legal and safe and if the liability shield is removed the Internet is going to be a dumpster fire,” said Maura.  

#6: LOOK TO TECH POLICY IN THE EU AND CALIFORNIA FOR INSIGHTS

The EU and California are way ahead of D.C. in regulating our digital markets. But, the pressure from both sides is forcing policymakers to move more quickly. Maura said, “D.C. is getting squeezed into making some decisions. What tech is now facing is uncertainty and it’s very hard to run a business on uncertainty.”

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