Gizmodo: Apple’s Quietly Funding an ‘Astroturf Lobbying Group’ Claiming to Represent App Developers

September 19, 2022 Media

Washington D.C. tech industry group The App Association boldly refers to itself as, “the leading industry voice on the app economy,” and says it represents more than 5,000 app makers and connected device companies spread out around 27 countries worldwide. What The App Association’s website doesn’t say is that more than half its estimated $9 million worth of sponsorships revenues in 2020 came from one company—Apple.

That’s according to a recent Bloomberg article, which cites sources detailing the group’s deep financial relationship with Apple. Those funds in turn, according to Bloomberg, shape the group’s influential policy priorities from the shadows. Tech transparency groups speaking with Gizmodo claimed The App Association’s (which goes by the moniker ACT) relationship with Apple illustrates a broader trend of Big Tech’s surreptitious infecting of trade group politics with one organization categorizing ACT an, “astroturf lobbying group.”

Responding to requests for comment from Gizmodo, ACT clarified Apple is a sponsor and not a member of the organization, but went on to confirm that the smartphone maker nonetheless contributed more than 50% of ACT’s sponsorship revenues in 2020. Other major sponsors listed on ACT’s websiteinclude Verizon, Intel, AT&T, and Verisign. That 50% figure leaves plenty of room for interpretation. Though ACT didn’t provide a specific dollar amount Apple contributed, sources speaking with Bloomberg claimed the total percentage originating from Apple’s money bags far surpasses 50%.

“ACT, like the Developer’s Alliance and the Connected Commerce Council, is simply the latest organization exposed as a Big Tech front group,” American Economic Liberties Project Senior Policy Analyst Krista Brown told Gizmodo. “It has taken a number of positions that disadvantage the developers it purports to speak for yet align well with Apple’s agenda.”

ACT, according to Brown, has taken numerous positions over the years that “disadvantage[s] developers it purports to speak for,” all while inevitably aligning with Apple’s agenda.

Brown, of the AELP, similarly said that Apple’s ACT connections reveals wider problems plaguing the industry and urged lawmakers to put a spotlight on Big Tech’s alleged financial meddling.

“It’s a clear example of the ways Big Tech money directs much of the narrative in Washington,” Brown said. “It’s a serious issue, and one lawmakers and enforcers would be wise to keep top of mind as they consider efforts to rein in Big Tech’s power.”