Close this menu

Internet Sales Tax Scheme the Easy Choice For Worst Internet Legislation

When we meet twice a year to put together the Internet Advocates’ Watchlist for Ugly Laws (iAWFUL), we’re looking at two key factors: the relative awfulness of the bill or law and it’s likelihood of taking effect.  It’s rare that one measure tops both categories, but for the August 2014 list, the choosing the worst of the worst was morbidly simple.

The ironically titled Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA) has been a fixture on the iAWFUL since we first introduced the list – thanks to the unique burdens it seeks to impose on Internet sellers and customers.  But as bad as MFA is, the awfulness of the bill has always been tempered by our confidence that right-thinking lawmakers wouldn’t allow it to pass in its current, fatally flawed form. 

That confidence took a big hit this summer when Senate MFA supporters threw their weight behind a cunning ploy to end-running normal legislative procedure and short circuit debate.[pullquote]MFA supporters made the cold calculus that lawmakers will accept the MFA as a cost completing the ITFA renewal.[/pullquote]

MFA supporters are now committed to attaching their bill, which has been hemorrhaging support since it passed the Senate in 2013.  On the other side is the widely popular tax limiting Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA), set to expire on November 2.

ITFA reauthorization, which protects Americans from unfair and discriminatory taxes on their Internet service, is must-pass legislation. If it fails, Americans Internet users could see the effects almost instantly in their monthly bills. MFA supporters know this as well as anyone.  The supporters made the cold calculus that lawmakers will accept the MFA as a cost completing the ITFA renewal.

This type of sinister action is the type of move that gave iAWFUL its name.

Taking the number two spot on the August iAWFUL is an effort underway in several states to override social media users’ declared privacy preferences when they die. Delaware was the first state to adopt the Uniform Laws Commission plan, which effectively strips away all assumptions of privacy online after a user dies. The Delaware law – a version of which are pending in Massachusetts – expressly overrides the privacy choices of deceased Internet users as expressed in their personal settings.

Rounding out the top three is another first for the iAWFUL – a European push to suppress online search results under the cover of privacy and revenue generation. While there may be little that American voters can do about the so called “right to be forgotten” or the new Spanish and German search taxes, NetChoice is urging Congress to treat these encroachments as barriers to trade.

The final two items on the August 2014 iAWFUL are a California bill that threatens to undermine the innovative potential of ride-sharing platforms, and city regulations being enforced around the country to block Internet-enabled home renting.

Check out the full list at