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Industrial Policy

Big Tech boosts lobbying spending in Brussels

The world’s largest tech companies increased their spending for lobbying activities in Brussels last year as discussions over new and far-reaching tech rules were heating up.

Apple, Amazon, Meta, Google and Microsoft all boosted their lobbying spending, according to new data from the EU Transparency Register. The increase, which hasn’t been previously reported, came as the bloc discussed a set of new rules aimed at reining in the power of the internet giants and cracking down on illegal content.

“With this update we are finally seeing how much Big Tech declares spending to lobby the EU while it prepared key new rules like the Digital Services Act, the Digital Markets Act and the Artificial Intelligence Act,” Margarida Silva, researcher at research and campaign group Corporate Europe Observatory, told POLITICO.

“As expected, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon have all increased their lobbying budgets during this period — even though COVID restrictions meant it was mostly done remotely,” she added.

Apple roughly doubled its spending to around €7 million in the period from October 2020 to September 2021. In the previous 12-month period, its spending was around €3.7 million, according to data from lobbyfact.eu.

The increase is even more striking if the most recent data are compared with previous years. In 2014, for example, Apple’s lobbying spending was less than a million euros. The Cupertino, California-based company also beefed up its team of lobbyists, declaring 7.2 full-time equivalent lobbying positions compared with 4.5 previously.

The amounts in the Transparency Register are reported as ranges; for example for Apple the range is €6.5 million to €7 million. At the upper range, the five tech giants spent €29.5 million on lobbying EU institutions in the period covered by the new data, an increase of almost one-quarter from the previous period.

The jump at Apple dwarfs the increases posted by other Silicon Valley giants. But Amazon, Microsoft, Meta and Google all increased their lobbying spending, according to the data. Google and Meta declared budgets of up to €6.5 million, followed by Microsoft at up to €6 million and Amazon’s €3.5 million.

The new data shine a light on the increasing efforts the Silicon Valley giants undertook to influence coming tech rules in Brussels, which will mark a significant shift in the regulatory landscape that Big Tech will have to navigate.

Since the beginning of Ursula Von der Leyen’s tenure as president of the European Commission in 2019, tech companies and lobbying groups have had more than 150 meetings with EU officials to discuss the DMA and the DSA, according to Corporate Europe Observatory.

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