Wednesday

14th Apr 2021

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.

Column / 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.

News in Brief

  1. EU states make progress on Covid-19 'travel certificates'
  2. Michel pledges to protect von der Leyen's 'dignity' in future
  3. Libya frees UN-sanctioned human trafficker
  4. European court: jailed Turkish writer's rights violated
  5. EU set to miss 1m electric charging points by 2025 target
  6. Lavrov expects Iran nuclear deal to be saved
  7. France suspends flights from Brazil due to Covid variant
  8. Johnson & Johnson delays roll-out of vaccine in EU

MEPs chide Portugal and Council in EU prosecutor dispute

The Belgian and Bulgarian prosecutors who were appointed had also not been the experts' first choice. Belgian prosecutor Jean-Michel Verelst has challenged the council's decision at the European Court of Justice.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. Nato and US urge Russia to back off on Ukraine
  2. Future EU platform seeks to 'stay clean' of hate speech
  3. Denmark threatens Syria deportations amid EU concerns
  4. MEPs raise concerns on vaccine 'travel certificates'
  5. Will Romania be EU's Green Deal laggard?
  6. Muslims, Ramadan, and myths facing 'European civilisation'
  7. Europe & Africa - rebuilding the future
  8. How the pandemic became an EU goldmine for crime

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us