30th Nov 2023

Tech industry now spends €113m a year lobbying Brussels

  • Google, Facebook's Meta, Amazon, and Microsoft top the list of big lobbying spenders (Photo: Anthony Quintano)
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Tech companies have increased their lobby power and are now spending some €113m a year to influence EU decision-making, a new study revealed on Tuesday (11 September).

In just two years, the tech industry's lobbying expenditure has increased from €97m to €113m — marking a significant 16.5 percent increase since 2021.

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The report, based on the data from LobbyFacts, identifies a total of 651 companies, groups, and business associations in the sector that are lobbying EU digital policies in Brussels.

But the increase in lobby spending primarily concentrates on the top 25 companies, with Big Tech leading the way.

Only 10 companies are responsible for almost a third of the total tech lobby expenditure, with a budget of over €40m.

Google, Facebook's Meta, Amazon, and Microsoft top the list of big lobbying spenders.

Meta, which is the financially strongest tech company in the EU lobby register, has increased its lobby expenditure from €5.5m to €8m over the course of two years. Apple comes next, doubling its expenditure from €3.5m to €7m.

"This should be another wake-up call to curb the privileged access this sector has to the EU decision-making process," said Bram Vranken, a campaigner and researcher from Corporate Europe Observatory. "The dangers of Big Tech are increasingly clear".

These companies, he said, are built on business models that heavily depend on surveillance advertising and data extraction, algorithmic systems that magnify the spread of disinformation and harmful content, and AI programs that lack accountability and fairness.

"These numbers show how Big Tech is using its massive resources to water down any regulation which might rein in these abuses," Vranken said.

The EU has confronted the so-called digital 'wild west' with key legislation such as the Digital Service Act (DSA) and the Digital Market Act (DMA). Other flagship tech policies include the AI Act.

Last year, documents obtained by NGOs Corporate Europe Observatory and Global Witness revealed how Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and others tried to influence the outcome of trilogues on the DSA and DMA proposals.

The behind-closed-doors approach of trilogues is seen as especially beneficial for well-funded lobbyists.

"This increase in resources for lobbying with a simultaneous increase in market concentration in this sector is worrying," said Verena Leyendecker from LobbyControl, urging stricter rules for lobbying activities in the EU.

According to Transparency International, Big Tech consistently ranks among top lobbyists when it comes to engaging in high-level meetings with the European Commission.

Google, for example, has had 108 meetings with EU officials since the beginning of EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen's legislative term.

"It is essential that policymakers enforce a level playing field by providing equal access to less well-resourced organisations. Money should not equal access," Raphaël Kergueno from Transparency International EU told EUobserver.

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