Big Tech’s web of influence in the EU
As Big Tech’s market power grew, so did its political clout. Now, as the EU tries to rein in the most problematic aspects of Big Tech – from disinformation, targeted advertising to unfair competition practices – the digital giants are lobbying hard to shape new regulations.
In ‘The Lobby Network’, Corporate Europe Observatory and Lobbycontrol offer an overview of the tech industry’s EU lobbying firepower. For the first time, we map the ‘universe’ of actors lobbying the EU’s digital economy, from Silicon Valley giants to Shenzhen’s contenders; from firms created online to those making the infrastructure that keeps the internet running; tech giants and newcomers.
We found a wide yet deeply imbalanced ‘universe’:
- with 612 companies, groups and business associations lobbying the EU’s digital economy policies. Together, they spend over €97 million annually lobbying the EU institutions. This makes tech the biggest lobby sector in the EU by spending, ahead of pharma, fossil fuels, finance, and chemicals.
- in spite of the varied number of players, this universe is dominated by a handful of firms. Just ten companies are responsible for almost a third of the total tech lobby spend: Vodafone, Qualcomm, Intel, IBM, Amazon, Huawei, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Google spend more than €32 million making their voices heard in the EU.
- out of all the companies lobbying the EU on digital policy, 20 per cent are US based, though this number is likely even higher. Less than 1 per cent have head offices in China or Hong Kong. This implies Chinese firms have so far not invested in EU lobbying quite as heavily as their US counterparts.
- digital industry companies are not just lobbying individually. They are also collectively organised into business and trade associations which are themselves important lobby actors. The business associations lobbying on behalf of Big Tech alone have a lobbying budget that far surpasses that of the bottom 75 per cent of the companies in the digital industry.