Technology companies are at the head of the lobby in the European Union with an annual expenditure of 97 million to influence community policies, in the process of regulating the sector. This is how the report collects it The Lobby Network, prepared by Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) and Lobbycontrol, which shows the lobbying power of the technology industry in the EU, from the giants of Silicon Valley to those of Shenzhen; from companies created online to those that create the infrastructure that keeps the Internet running …
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According to data discovered by Corporate Europe Observatory and Lobbycontrol, there are 612 companies, groups and business associations lobbying the policies of the digital economy in the EU. Together, they spend more than 97 million euros a year lobbying the European institutions. This makes technology the largest lobbying sector in the EU in terms of spending, ahead of the pharmaceutical industry, fossil fuels, finance and chemicals.
Despite the diverse number of actors, this universe is dominated by a handful of companies. Only ten companies are responsible for almost a third of total spending on the technology lobby: Vodafone, Qualcomm, Intel, IBM, Amazon, Huawei, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Google spend more than 32 million euros to make their voice heard in the EU.
“Of all the companies lobbying the EU on digital policy, 20% are headquartered in the US, although this figure is likely to be even higher,” states the report: “Less than 1% are headquartered in China or Hong Kong. This implies that Chinese companies so far have not invested as much EU lobbying as their US counterparts. ”
Companies in the digital industry are not just lobbying individually. They are also collectively organized into trade and business associations which are themselves important lobbyists. “Business associations lobbying on behalf of big technologies have a lobby budget that exceeds 75% of companies in the digital industry,” the research states.
“The huge lobbying budgets of big technologies have a significant impact on EU policy makers, who find that they knock on their doors regularly,” the report explains: “The lobby around proposals to regulate services In an attempt by the EU to control big tech, it provides the perfect example of how companies’ huge budget gives them privileged access: high-level officials of the European Commission held 271 meetings, 75% of them with industry lobbies. Google and Facebook led the pack. ”
“Despite publicly supporting these proposals, meeting minutes, leaked lobbying strategies and internal documents show that big tech is still pushing to try and dilute the envisaged rules. This battle has now moved to the European Parliament and the Council –the Governments– and, despite the lack of transparency, we are beginning to see the footprint of the lobbying of big technologies in EU capitals such as Tallinn, Estonia “, the document relates.
Tommaso Valletti, former chief economist of the EU Commission’s Competition Directorate and professor of Economics at Imperial College, told the Corporate Europe Observatory: “The economic and political power of the digital giants is considerable and they will not remain liabilities to possible new rules that affect the way they conduct their business. That is why the EU institutions urgently need to change the way they handle this lobby and limit the power of great technology. ”
According to the report, Big Tech’s new narrative is based on “publicly supporting new rules, but only soft rules, shaped by themselves. This is then combined with attempts to reformulate the regulation as a threat, not for their own benefits, but for SMEs and consumers. The final component is stoking geopolitical fears by warning that regulation will put Europe behind the United States and especially China. Behind this narrative is still the belief that regulation innovation weighs down. ”
The lobby of the Big tech it also relies “on funding from a wide network of third parties, including think tanks, SME and startup associations, and legal and economic consultancies to drive its messages. These links are often not disclosed, hiding potential biases and conflicts. of interests: there are 14 think tanks and NGOs with close and opaque ties to tech firms. ”
The immense lobbying resources of big technologies reflect the growing dominance of the sector in the economy and in society as a whole: “Ten years ago, lobbying in the EU was different, with sectors such as finance and pharmaceuticals dominating it. But this has changed in the last decade with tech companies outpacing them in terms of spending, reach and influence. The alarming power of the digital sector should be a wake-up call to implement stricter regulation of lobbyists at both the level of the EU and Member States, and to ensure that new instruments are created to limit the power of corporations that would otherwise use it to shape legislation according to their interests. ”