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Facebook and Yelp Follow Google and Microsoft in Ditching ALEC

The floodgates have opened: Hot on the heels of Google’s Monday announcement that it was severing ties with controversial conservative lobbying group the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Microsoft’s move last month to do the same, Facebook has confirmed it will join them, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The social media giant said in a statement: “We reevaluate our memberships on an annual basis, and are in that process now. While we have tried to work within ALEC to bring that organization closer to our view on some key issues, it seems unlikely that we will make sufficient progress so we are not likely to renew our membership in 2015.”

Meanwhile, the Guardian confirmed today that Yelp is also leaving the group: Public policy director Luther Lowe reportedly said that the company’s membership had expired and had not been renewed.

Environmental groups have long been lobbying tech companies and other corporations for years to cut ties with ALEC, which has worked to kill renewable energy programs and teach climate denial in schools, and counts Exxon, Koch Industries and other big fossil fuel companies among its members. Activist efforts had previously persuaded companies including Coca-Cola, Kraft, General Electric and General Motors to leave the group, according to the Chronicle, and now the tech giants are starting to follow suit.

The move makes sense for Facebook as it did for Google — both companies have been lauded for their industry-leading investments into clean energy, and for joining Apple in pushing Duke Energy, the largest utility in the US, to offer new renewable energy options for large electricity buyers in North Carolina — so separating themselves from ALEC shows them both “walking their talk” in this area.

Meanwhile, the Guardian speculated that pressure will now be heaped on remaining ALEC members, including eBay and Yahoo!, to join the mass exodus. But Yahoo!, for one, may not be jumping ship anytime soon.

“At Yahoo!, we engage in the political process in a variety of ways to promote and to protect the long-term interests of our users and our company,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “One of the ways we do so is through memberships in organizations that help advance our business objectives. We may not agree with all the positions of an organization, its leaders or its supporters. At this time, we are members of ALEC and limit our engagement to their Communications and Technology Task Force.”

Michael Terrell, Google’s senior policy counsel for energy and sustainability — who also represented Yahoo, Facebook and eBay – apparently told attendees at a recent ALEC meeting in Dallas that they should be pushing for “more robust” policies encouraging renewable energy, a position opposed by most ALEC members.

According to the Guardian, Chris Taylor, a Democratic representative in the Wisconsin state assembly who attended the meeting, said Terrell argued that tech firms’ data centers required huge amounts of energy and that renewable energy was cost-effective. Terrell also urged ALEC to work with the Internet companies on furthering the availability of renewables — to which he apparently received little support.

Who do you think will — or should — be the next company to break away from ALEC?


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