Internet marketing is under attack, and if you’re not watching what’s going on, you could suddenly find that it costs you more to do the things you’ve done in your job for years. Much more. This is because the United Nations is considering a proposal to impose a tax on content delivery and bandwidth use. This tax will be served on content providers like Facebook, Twitter, Google and Bing. But ultimately, we all know that taxes have a trickle-down effect, which means that in the end if this tax passes, marketers, search engine optimization professionals and end users will pay the price.
Taxes for international communications are levied on the providers of telecommunication services by the aptly named International Telecommunications Regulations, which govern who pays what tax when it comes to communication across international borders. This group was first created to impose taxation on the old-fashioned telegraph, which completely changed the entire world at the time. The most recent time that the group (which is controlled and managed by the United Nations due to the international nature of this issue) shoved their nose into worldwide business affairs was more than 20 years ago when they instituted taxes on international calling.
The plan that the UN is considering for the World Wide Web is similar to the tax plan for telegraph and long distance telephone service. In simple terms, the UN wants to tax content providers when they deliver materials to a user in another country. For instance, if a user in Australia downloads and application from Facebook – which is based in the US – then the social media giant will be required to pay a tax to the country the end user is located in. Unfortunately, some have speculated that this tax will be significant considering the large volume of data that is transferred during such a transaction.
There are three major problems with this proposal:
1.) Because most of the major content providers are located in the United States, the US will bear the brunt of this blow, as most of the profit on the web today is made by American companies. In fact, many in the IM and SEO industries have cried foul about this, as they basically see it as a way for other countries to get their share of web revenue without actually having to provide any product or service or really do anything at all.
2.) If the tax passes, it could force some of these major companies to either completely restructure what they do, or they could go out of business altogether. But the more logical answer is that they’ll have no choice but to pass the tax on to users – including those of us who are making a living on the web.
3.) Developing countries could be cut off from services from companies like Google and Facebook because in general those locations do not provide a large enough source of income in light of such United Nations-sanctioned taxation. This could then relegate those countries – which may be digging their way out of figurative holes via the internet – back to the internet stone age.
The most dangerous part of all this is that the meetings of the UN and the International Telecommunications Regulations are conducted in secret, so we really have no idea what’s going to happen until it has already happened, which means there is little that can be done but wait. Of course, the United States will fight this vehemently without much prompting from its citizens, so contacting your local representatives probably won’t do much good. The fight will have to be taken internationally, and being that some speculate an official final vote could occur by the end of the year, there’s not much time to take action.
Fortunately, it will take the companies affected by this potential tax a long time to develop a recovery plan, which means that end users probably won’t feel the effect for some time to come. But this doesn’t mean we should get complacent. Join a committee, sign a petition, write an open letter or use your web skills to launch a website to tell these UN fat cats that we won’t stand for this. To learn more about how you can use the web to spread the message using social media and other channels, contact a search engine optimization professional about securing your voice among the crowd.