The Big Four technology companies have upped their spending on lobbying retainers in light of increased chatter regarding a federal crackdown and calls for regulators to break up social media platforms such as Facebook, according to a report appearing in the New York Times today.
According to the Times’ analysis, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple spent a combined total of $55 million on lobbying in 2018, effectively doubling their 2016 lobbying spends of $27.4 million. According to the Times, these figures now put the big four tech companies “on a par with long-established lobbying powerhouses like the defense, automobile and banking industries.”
Citing figures from nonpartisan research group the Center for Responsive Politics, the Times report goes on to claim that several tech companies are already on track to spend at even higher levels this year.
The Times report comes days after the House Judiciary Committee announced it would launch a “top-to-bottom” antitrust probe into Google, Facebook and other tech giants.
“The era of self-regulation is over,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., tweeted on Monday.
Pelosi herself was recently the victim of a heavily doctored video that showed her appearing to drunkenly slur words at a Center for American Progress event. To date, Facebook has declined to take any action in removing that “deepfake” clip, which was widely-circulated across the platform as well as Twitter and YouTube, and was even linked by President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.
The spate of calls for a federal inquiry into Facebook account for only the latest in an ongoing hurdle of PR disasters to face the social platform, after the site was used for political manipulation by Russia-backed firms during the 2016 presidential election and was later criticized for hiring D.C. PR firm Definers Public Affairs to conduct opposition research on critics. Questionable practices with user data and wide system outages leading to advertiser refunds have since continued to sully the tech image’s reputation.
Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes argued in a widely-circulated May New York Times op-ed that it's time to break up the social media giant.
An annual research study of congressional staff and executive branch officials released by APCO Worldwide last year discovered that lobbyists representing the U.S. tech sector are now seen by Washington policy leaders as the most effective advocacy associations and the best positioned to drive members’ agendas on Capitol Hill.