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Big Tech tops EU lobbying spending, study finds

Google, Facebook and Microsoft have contributed to "the largest ever effort to lobby the EU" in a battle against new laws aimed at curbing their powers.

A person holds a smartphone in front of Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon logos

Governments have moved toward regulating tech giants as their influence rises

Alphabet Inc's Google unit, Facebook Inc and Microsoft Corp are the three biggest lobbying spenders at the European Union, according to a study released on Tuesday.

It comes as the European Union debates stricter regulations on tech companies through the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act.

The study by campaign groups Corporate Europe Observatory and LobbyControl found that tech giants "are lobbying hard to shape new regulations."

"The rising lobby firepower of big tech and the digital industry as a whole mirrors the sectors' huge and growing role in society," the study summary said.

"It is remarkable and should be a cause of concern that the platforms can use this firepower to ensure their voices are heard — over countervailing and critical voices — in the debate over how to construct new rules for digital platforms."

How much do tech giants spend on EU lobbying?

According to the study, 612 companies, groups and associations representing the tech sector spend more than €97 million ($114 million) annually lobbying on EU digital economy policies — a sum the researchers say "dwarfs all other private sector lobbying spending."

Google was the highest spender, with €5.75 million, followed by Facebook's €5.5 million, Microsoft's €5.25 million. Apple's spending was 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.

"It's the largest ever effort to lobby the EU," said the Consumer Voice, a European umbrella group of 45 consumer organizations. 

How have they responded to the study?

Google and Huawei said they submit their lobbying data to the EU transparency register.

"We have clear policies in place to protect the independence of the people and organizations we sponsor, including a requirement to disclose funding," Google told the Reuters news agency in an email.

Microsoft told Reuters that the EU "has been and remains an important stakeholder for Microsoft. We seek to be a constructive and transparent partner to European policymakers."

What about the EU?

The report warned about Big Tech's access to the European Commission, as lobbyists were involved in three-quarters of the 270 meetings officials had on the two draft laws. 

A Commission spokesperson told Reuters that the institution was "open to meeting anyone who wishes to speak to us."

"The Commission does not, and will not control who requests meetings, nor how often. It is also not for the Commission to explain or comment on lobbying strategies of the different companies and interest representatives."

fb/msh (Reuters, EFE, epd)