The digital sphere has acquired more lobbying opportunities than pharmaceutical, fossil fuels, financial, or chemical areas, giving over €97m every year to push forward EU decision-making, a new report showed on Tuesday, August 31.
The research case conducted by NGOs Corporate Europe Observatory and LobbyControl shows an uncertain playing field, where just a few corporations are in priority for lobbying attempts in EU digital economy policies.
Only 10 firms take responsibility for nearly a third part of the total tech lobby financial spending – with Google, Facebook, and Microsoft as prior spenders, having financial supply of over €5m each.
On the other hand, the total amount of 612 firms, corporations, and business associations in the digital area were stated as lobbying actors in Brussels – including the biggest part of large players coming from the US. The published data shows that tech firms are not just pushing policy-makers in individual order, because they are as well inclined to be part of businesses and trade corporations and a larger network of “non-transparent collaborations” with think factories, consultancies, and educational establishments, all of which are also taking attempt to push forward opinions in the public debate.
At present, the Digital Markets Act (DMA) and the Digital Services Act (DSA) are undergoing an active pushing, as the two crucial elements of legation able to form online platforms’ business models.
The DSA’s goal is to make digital firms responsible for the illegal and non-profitable content data showed on their platforms, while the DMA effort to set a list of what to do and not to do initially for the largest online platforms, so-called gatekeepers.
Meanwhile, the reports data also outlines the way lobbyists behind digital industries go on standing for a regulation based on an individual approach by means narratives such as “regulation stifles innovation” or arguing that too much regulation will make Europe lag behind the US and China.
For instance, Facebook’s leader of corporate communications Nick Clegg (the ex-UK deputy prime minister) stated in a commentary published last May that the “Chinese model presents a risk to the open internet as we know it”, making a warning that “policymakers have to avoid two unintended consequences: unnecessarily stifling European innovation, and inadvertently accelerating the splintering of the global internet”.
With the von der Leyen Commission, EU high-level officials such as commissioners, directorates-general or head of cabinets held 270 meetings on these two offers since November 2019. The biggest part of these consultations were with industry pushers (75 percent), compared to NGOs (19 percent) and other groups (six percent).
However, the lobbying war has now changed direction towards the European Parliament and Council, where debates to achieve an all-agreed opinion are still in process.
‘Independent voices’ required
At the same time, people in society and educational establishments are claiming that EU institutions address not only the massive-scaled economic power concentration of big tech, but also their ability to push EU decision-making.
“The economic and political power of the digital giants is hefty, and they are not going to remain passive in the face of possible new rules that affect the way they conduct their businesses. That’s why the EU institutions urgently need to change the way they handle this lobbying”, said Tommaso Valleti, former chief economist of the EU Commission competition department and professor of economics at Imperial College London.
That way, Margarida Silva, a researcher at Corporate Europe Observatory, said that “it is of a paramount importance that independent voices and citizens get engaged in these policy debates, to guarantee that corporate pushers do not get to form the prospects of technological industry”.
For his part, Max Bank, author of the report and researcher from LobbyControl, called especially on EU capitals to “stop acting vaguely, and finally give confidency that they ensure democratic respoinsibility as for their activities and decisions”.“It’s sad”: Lavrov reacts to Zelensky’s words about Russian gas