Thursday

6th Oct 2022

Infographic

Facebook's increasing PR job in Brussels

  • Facebook has met with the Juncker Commission at least 67 times, and now spends around €2.5m a year on lobbying in Brussels (Photo: portal gda)

Starting in 2012, when it first entered the EU's transparency register, Facebook has been steadily intensifying its lobbying efforts within European institutions.

Facebook is a regular subject of controversies connected to the use of data shared by its users - in 2013, for example, after the revelations of Edward Snowden, or more recently with the Cambridge Analytica affair.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

As a consequence, the company has been trying its best to polish its image and reassure both the public and institutions.

To this end, it has formed a network to amplify its influence in Washington as well as in Brussels.

On both sides of the Atlantic, Mark Zuckerberg's company has been intensifying its lobbying activity.

In Europe, Facebook has made efforts to become one of the most active lobbying groups within European institutions, following the examples of Microsoft and Google — two other members of the infamous GAFAM group (Google/Amazon/Facebook/Apple/Microsoft), who are among the ten biggest spenders in this arena.

On the strength of its 2.2 billion active users, Facebook declares in the EU transparency register that its "mission is to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together".

An objective which Zuckerberg reaffirmed in his manifesto published in February 2017, where he states that "progress now requires humanity coming together not just as cities or nations but also as a global community".

A gradual arrival

In Brussels, meetings between its representatives and European commissioners or their cabinet members are organised regularly.

By February 2018, the European Commission had recorded 67 meetings since the beginning of the Juncker Commission in 2014.

The discussions hinge on topics such as the development of the internet in the EU, the establishment of a digital single market, data-protection measures, and the battle against fake news.

Facebook's efforts in Brussels were initially rather timid.

In 2012, when it first entered the EU's transparency register, Facebook declared two employees at work in European institutions, and lobbying expenses amounting to between €400,000 and €450,000. Little by little the company cut a stronger figure, increasing spending and the number of its collaborators.

In 2013, as the EU began revising its data protection regulations, Facebook increased its lobbying expenses and recruited six new lobbyists.

With its last declaration for the Transparency Register, 2017 marked a new record for the company. Its declared spending was between €2.25m and €2.5m, and the number of employees rose to 15 at Brussels, 7.2 at full-time equivalent, of which four possess European Parliament accreditation.

The Facebook network

In order to improve the actions of its lobbyists, Facebook joined the same networks as its other GAFAM colleagues.

Like the majority of companies present in Brussels, the company turned to the services of specialised consulting agencies.

These agencies offer their expertise in matters of public relations and policy as well as their knowledge of the inner workings of European institutions.

In its Lobby Planet guide, the Corporate Europe Observatory explains that the services range from "image-laundering" to "greenwashing", to "creating ad hoc groups to serve the interests" of their clients.

Elsewhere, Facebook beefs up its lobbying network by integrating professional associations, which are often the same associations affiliated with other GAFAM companies.

These alliances between companies in the same economic sector give more strength to actions undertaken in the names of their members.

Thus, Facebook coordinates its actions within European institutions with other members of GAFAM, as well as other giants of the digital and telecommunication sectors, by means of these associations.

(Photo: EDJN)

Caught up in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook has been called upon to explain how it can to protect the private lives and data of its users.

The European Commission has demanded a response from the company, and Zuckerberg testified before US Congress.

In the meantime, Facebook has responded by further increasing its presence in Washington and listing 12 job openings for lobbyists based in the American capital.

Author bio

This article was first published by VoxEurop and the European Data Journalism Network. EDJNet is a platform for data-driven news on European affairs in up to 12 languages brought to you by a consortium of media and data journalists from all over Europe, which includes EUobserver.

Brussels Bytes

Policymakers must be careful on 'platform regulation'

Forcing platforms to share customer data with sellers, curtailing platforms' ability to favour their own products, and restricting platforms' flexibility in setting rules sellers play by would make it harder for platforms to compete by offering different consumer experiences.

EP in blame game on Zuckerberg meeting format

[UPDATED] Last month's 'hearing' with Facebook CEO allowed him to give only general or evasive answers about the data breach scandal involving Cambridge Analytica - partly due to the controversial format of the meeting.

Podcast

How Europe helped normalise Georgia Meloni

Should Georgia Meloni be considered neofascist? She insists she's a patriotic conservative. And indeed, if she's prime minister, she's expected to respect Italy's democracy — if only to keep money flowing from the EU.

News in Brief

  1. Thousands of Hungarian students and teachers protest
  2. Swedish MEP cuts hair mid-speech to support Iran women
  3. Danish general election called for 1 November
  4. Slovenia legalises gay marriage, adoption
  5. Russia's stand-in EU ambassador reprimanded on Ukraine
  6. France warns over incoming eighth Covid wave
  7. EU adds Anguilla, Bahamas and Turks and Caicos to tax-haven blacklist
  8. Czechs warn joint-nationality citizens in Russia on mobilisation

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  2. The European Association for Storage of EnergyRegister for the Energy Storage Global Conference, held in Brussels on 11-13 Oct.
  3. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  4. European Committee of the RegionsThe 20th edition of EURegionsWeek is ready to take off. Save your spot in Brussels.
  5. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”

Latest News

  1. EU wants to see US list on Russia financing of politicians
  2. Putin's twin aim: to break Ukraine and West's consensus
  3. Putin's diamond firm off the hook in EU sanctions
  4. The Iranian regime's expiration date
  5. Let's end Bulgaria and Romania's 11-year Schengen purgatory
  6. EU debates new pandemic-type loans to deal with crisis
  7. MEPs condemn EU Commission 'leniency' on Hungary
  8. Czech EU presidency wants asylum pledges to be secret

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us