Monday, September 19, 2022

Funding The App Association (ACT)

Malcolm Owen:

Advocacy groups and lobbying parties often make claims to sway public, judicial, and political opinion one way or another, and that has been quite evident for some news stories about the tech giants. The App Association (ACT), which aims to fight for the rights of developers, generally offers favorable opinions about Apple.

Apple is said to be the source of most of the funding of the ACT, according to four former employees speaking to Bloomberg. While ACT has confirmed it receives more than half its funding from Apple, the employees claim the percentage received is a lot higher than half.


That funding gives Apple a lot of sway in the group, with the employees believing this provided Apple the opportunity to control the policy positions of the organization.


The App Association has large sponsors such as Apple, Intel and VeriSign. Microsoft, eBay and Oracle used to sponsor the App Association.


Update (2022-09-23): Florian Mueller:

I would also strongly encourage the European Commission to reject any submissions by ACT | The App(le) Association on whatever topic. And should one or more antitrust decisions come down against Apple in the App Store context, the European Court of Justice should not allow an organization mostly funded by Apple to join as a “third-party” intervenor.


While low-key compared to Apple, the “(Application) Developers Alliance” is basically the same thing as ACT, just that they’re funded by Google.

Florian Mueller:

According to what Bloomberg researched, ACT has a budget of approximately $10 million. It never made sense that those funds would come from 5,000 small app developers: there’s no way that small app developers would pay an average of $2K/yr. for a “membership” in a lobbying organization.

Astroturfing is bad enough in its own right. But Apple and ACT added insult to injury at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic when ACT applied for, and received, PPP funding.


That level of following is consistent with pictures that have been shown from ACT events. Also, I attended an ACT event in Berlin three years ago, where I was the only actual app developer in the room. The rest was in-house and outside counsel of the usual suspects (Apple and its allies on standard-essential patent policy).

See also: Hacker News.

Update (2023-05-23): Florian Mueller:

It speaks volumes about Apple’s values that even after Bloomberg exposed ACT | The App(le) Association as an astoturfing operation, they still attempt to fool policy makers--such as European Commission officials--into believing that ACT represents small app developers and IoT startups. They continue to issue statements, to lobby policy makers, to organize events, and to participate in debates--all of that in the name of small companies, even when they actually work against them, such as on App Store issues.


A former de facto ACT employee indirectly and inadvertently threw the organization under the bus on Friday: Alexander Prenter, a Brussels-based native New Zealander who is now a policy officer at the Fair Standards Alliance. […] In other words, Mr. Prenter conceded that SMEs don’t pay for ACT’s work (as Bloomberg had also found out).

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