The Google unit of Alphabet Inc, Facebook Inc, and Microsoft Corp are the top three lobbyists in Europe in a concerted campaign against tough new laws proposed by the EU aimed at curtailing the powers of the US tech giants, according to a new report. a study released today.
Such dedicated efforts should be a wake-up call for EU policymakers to tighten draft laws and lobbying rules, according to the study by two campaign groups, Corporate Europe Observatory, and LobbyControl.
The technology sector now spends even more than the pharmaceutical, fossil fuel, financial and chemical sectors, all of which used to dominate the EU lobby, the report said.
“The increasing firepower of major tech and the digital industry as a whole reflects the vast and growing role of the sectors in society,” the study said. “It is remarkable and should be a cause for concern that the platforms can use this firepower to ensure their voices are heard – about compensatory and critical voices – in the debate on how to draft new rules for digital platforms.”
The survey found that 612 companies, groups, and associations spend more than €97 million (£83 million) annually lobbying for EU policies for the digital economy. The data was submitted by companies to the EU Transparency Register until mid-June 2021. Google reached the highest spend at €5.75 million, followed by Facebook at €5.5 million; Microsoft at €5.25 million; Apple at €3.5 million; Huawei Technologies Co Ltd at €3 million, and Amazon.com Inc in sixth place with €2.75 million, the study said.
Google and Huawei replied that they submit their lobbying data to the EU Transparency Register. “We have a clear policy to protect the independence of the people and organizations we sponsor, including a requirement to disclose funding,” Google said in an email.
A Microsoft statement read: “The European Union is and will remain an important stakeholder for Microsoft. We want to be a constructive and transparent partner for European policymakers.”
Facebook, Apple, and Amazon did not immediately comment when approached by Reuters.
The tech lobby focuses on two major pieces of legislation: the Digital Markets Act lists the dos and don’ts for tech giants and the Digital Services Act, which requires companies to do more to control the content on their platforms.
The study warned against industry access to the European Commission, with lobbyists involved in three-quarters of the 270 meetings of Commission officials on the two bills.
The study also mentioned the role trade and business associations, think tanks, and even political parties play in promoting the story of the technology industry.
The European Commission rejected the criticism. “The Commission is open to anyone who wants to speak to us. The Commission does not and will not monitor who requests meetings, nor how often. Nor is it for the Commission to explain or comment on the lobbying strategies of the various companies and interest representatives,” a spokesperson said in an email to Reuters.
In what may not be a coincidence the day the lobbying study was published, Google today announced a €1 billion (£859 million) investment in new cloud computing infrastructure in Germany.
Google said it will make a massive investment by 2030 to expand its cloud computing infrastructure in Germany and increase the use of renewable energy. It said it plans to add new cloud computing centers in the Berlin area and in the city of Hanau, close to the DE-CIX data exchange in Frankfurt.
Google said it would source more than 140 MW of electricity from French utility Engie’s German subsidiary in the coming years to operate the data centers.
The company said Engie will guarantee 80 percent of its electricity will come from carbon-free sources, including a new solar farm and 22 existing wind farms in Germany. Google aims to use 100 percent renewable energy by 2030.
German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier called the announcement a “strong signal” for green energy and digital infrastructure.