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“It is difficult to find expert advice by academic institutions that is not funded by tech”

EU officials and policy-makers should proactively seek out the voices of those that have less resources: SMEs, independent academics, civil society groups, local groups‘. And ‘there should be proper funding transparency requirements for think tanks and other organisations to reveal their funding sources‘. These are just two out of 12 excellent and very important proposals on how to limit Big Tech’s increasingly strong power according to a new report published by Coporate Europe Observatory and LobbyControl e.V. 

Reading the report is an absolute must – (and not just the excellent summary, but the whole report!) Because the race to regulate big tech is happening right now. But so is Big Tech’s effort to lobby the EU institutions in order to shape and align regulation with their own corporate – and not the citizens’ – best interests. And that race is disproportional.

Tech is the biggest lobby sector in the EU by spending

Big tech is given disproportionate access to policy-makers just as their messages are amplified by a wide network of think tanks and other third parties without any transparency. The authors call the situation a deeply imbalanced ‘universe’. A universe that that consists of at least 612 companies, groups and business associations lobbying the EU’s digital economy policies and together spend over €97 million doing this making tech the biggest lobby sector in the EU by spending – ahead of both pharma, fossil fuels, finance, and chemicals.

Top Lobby Spenders: Platforms.

And a universe where big tech’s lobbying often relies on funding of a wide network of third parties (including think tanks, SME and startup associations and law and economic consultancies) to push through its messages. The funding and the links to these parties are often not being disclosed, which is obfuscating potential biases and conflicts of interest.

The Green MEP, Alexandra Geese, a shadow rapporteur on the Digital Services Act calls formore independent experts in academia: Even for lawmakers it is difficult to find expert advice by academic institutions that is not funded by tech. This is not in the best interest of our citizens.“

Funding thinktanks like Cerre (Centre on Regulation in Europe), CDI (Center for Data Innovation) and EPC (European Policy Centre).

There is overall a very urgent need for things to be done at a fundamentally different way.

The fundamentals? All funding must be disclosed – also in the “hidden” places such as policy discussions and among academia, think tanks, and NGOs that keep ties with big tech – the “need to critically assess how they are functioning as part of the company’s soft power and should consider cutting those ties“.

The report also looks at the content of big tech’s lobbying, e.g. trying to scare everybody of China. The interesting thing here is that Facebook says the Chinese model presents a risk to the open Internet – as if Facebook was not a black box society

Get the full report

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