Brussels and Washington are hosting an increasing number of lobbyists and encounter more campaign activities funded by technology companies. They fight more strict regulation on everything from content moderation to privacy.
The oil and gas industry has traditionally been the largest lobbyist spender in US. But the world’s largest technology companies, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple, are taking over as top-donors. Between 2018 and 2020 they doubled their investments in four large foreign policy think tanks, according to an investigation by the Financial Times. The thinktanks are the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Center for a New American Security, Brookings and the Hudson Institute.
Meanwhile in the EU, Google – and several trade associations funded by Google – have been visiting politicians and officials in Brussels, as they were finishing the Digital Market Act. With cascades of advertising, emails and targeted social media posts they tried to avoid or dampen legislation that would harm their competitive advantages. Besides external lawyers and consultants, Google now has eight in-house lobbyist in Brussels and invested €6M in EU lobbyist activities in 2020 (EU’s Transparency register), according to another article in the Financial Times.
The EU and US lobbyists share persuading approach. They test a range of different arguments and see which sticks and best promote their message; increased regulation of the large tech companies will have counter productive societal impact and consequences. In US they like to point to how stricter competition rules like the American Innovation and Choice online Act will benefit China and strengthen China’s tech dominance.
In EU the dominant arguments circle on how The European Digital Market Act will not just prevent tech groups from using their dominant platform position to give preferential treatment of their own products but it will weaken small businesses interests and hit innocent business owners.
PrinceRunner Sues Google
The small business interest argument is interestingly used same time as David (aka PriceRunner) sues their Goliath (Google). According to the European General Court ruling late last year, Google has breached EU antitrust laws by manipulating search results in favor of their own comparison shopping service. PriceRunner claims Google has caused harm to them, as well as other comparison shopping services and not least to the European consumers who have overpaid for their online shopping. They aim to make Google pay compensation for the profits PriceRunner has lost in UK since 2008, as well as in Sweden and Denmark since 2013. The preliminary amount is EUR 2.1 billion but since the violation is ongoing the damages increases every day and the final damage amount is expected to be significantly higher.
Let’s end with Google’s comment to their extended lobbyist activities in Europe to The Financial Times:
“We think people in Europe should be able to enjoy the best services that Google can build. It’s clear some of the proposals in the Digital Marketing Act and Digital Service Act affect us directly and will have an impact on how we innovate our products in Europe. We care about getting the balance right, and we know our users and customers care too. Like many others, we’ve engaged openly and constructively with policymakers throughout the legislative process to put across our point of view.”