Alphabet’s unit of Google, Facebook and Microsoft are the three biggest lobby spenders in Europe in a battle against tough new laws aimed at curbing the powers of US tech giants, a study released on Tuesday showed. .
Such efforts should be a wake-up call for EU policymakers to further strengthen bills and lobbying rules, warned the study by campaign groups Corporate Europe Observatory and LobbyControl.
The technology sector spends more than the pharmaceutical, fossil fuel, financial and chemical sectors, which used to dominate the lobby, the report said.
“The growing firepower of the big tech lobby and the digital industry as a whole reflects the huge and growing role of sectors in society,” the study said.
“It is remarkable and should be cause for concern that platforms can use this firepower to ensure that their voices are heard – rather than critical and opposing voices – in the debate on how to build new rules for digital platforms.”
The study found that 612 companies, groups and associations spend more than 97 million euros (about Rs. 840 crores) annually lobbying the EU’s digital economy policies. The data was sent by companies to the EU Transparency Register by mid-June of this year.
Google exceeded spending with EUR 5.75 million (about INR 50 million), followed by Facebook with EUR 5.5 million (about INR 47.5 million), Microsoft with EUR 5.25 million (about INR 45 .38 million), Apple with EUR 3.5 million (approximately Rs. 30 crores), Huawei with EUR 3 million (approximately Rs. 25.9 crores), and Amazon in sixth place with EUR 2.75 million (approximately Rs. 23.7 crores), said the study.
Google and Huawei responded that they submitted their lobbying data to the EU Transparency Registry.
“We have clear policies to protect the independence of the people and organizations we sponsor, including the requirement to disclose funding,” Google said in an email.
Microsoft said: “The European Union has been and remains an important stakeholder for Microsoft. We seek to be a constructive and transparent partner for European policymakers.”
Facebook, Apple and Amazon did not comment immediately.
The technology lobby focuses on two key pieces of legislation. The Digital Markets’ Act lists dos and don’ts for technology giants, and the Digital Services Act requires companies to do more to police the content on their platforms.
The study warned of industry access to the European Commission, with lobbyists involved in three-quarters of the 270 meetings commission officials held on the two bills.
He also cited the role played by trade and business associations, think tanks and even political parties in promoting the tech industry’s narrative.
© Thomson Reuters 2021