Google, Facebook spend big on US lobbying amid policy battles

Google, Facebook spend big on US lobbying amid policy battles

France and Germany tabled a new plan that would see a three percent tax imposed on advertising sales
The logos of Facebook and Google. (Photo: AFP/Leon Neal/Loic Venance)

SAN FRANCISCO: Alphabet's Google disclosed in a quarterly filing on Tuesday (Jan 22) that it spent a company-record US$21.2 million on lobbying the United States (US) government in 2018, topping its previous high of US$18.22 million in 2012, as the search engine operator fights wide-ranging scrutiny into its practices.

In its filing to Congress on Tuesday, Facebook disclosed that it also spent more on government lobbying in 2018 than it ever had before at US$12.62 million. That was up from US$11.51 million a year ago, according to tracking by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Google spent US$18.04 million on lobbying in 2017, according to the center's data.

Google and Facebook declined to comment beyond their filings.

US lawmakers and regulators have weighed new privacy and antitrust rules to rein in the power of large internet service providers such as Google, Facebook and Amazon.com. Regulatory backlash in the United States, as well as Europe and Asia, is near the top of the list of concerns for technology investors, according to financial analysts.

Microsoft spent US$9.52 million on lobbying in 2018, according to its disclosure on Tuesday, up from US$8.5 million in 2017 but below its US$10.5 million tab in 2013.

Apple spent US$6.62 million last year, compared to its record of US$7.15 million in 2017, according to center data going back to 1998.

Apple and Microsoft did not respond to requests to comment. A filing from Amazon was expected later on Tuesday.

Google disclosed that new discussion topics with regulators in the fourth quarter included its search technology, criminal justice reform and international tax reform. The company is perennially among the top spenders on lobbying in Washington along with a few cable operators, defense contractors and healthcare firms.

Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai, who testified in December before a US House of Representatives panel for the first time, has said the company backs the idea of national privacy legislation. But he has contested accusations of the company having a political bias in its search results and of stifling competition.

Susan Molinari, Google's top US public policy official, stepped down to take on an advisory role this month.

Facebook said discussing "election integrity" with national security officials was among its new lobbying areas in the fourth quarter. The filing said the company continued to lobby the Federal Trade Commission, which is investigating its data security practices.

Source: Reuters/jt

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