Facebook quadruples spending on lobbying in Brussels

Social media giant spent more than €4m on EU lobbying last year, register shows

Last year Facebook spent between €4.2 million and €4.5 million on EU lobbying activities, and employs 12 full-time lobbyists, according to figures from the EU transparency database. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Last year Facebook spent between €4.2 million and €4.5 million on EU lobbying activities, and employs 12 full-time lobbyists, according to figures from the EU transparency database. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

 

Facebook has increased the amount it spends on lobbying efforts in Brussels fourfold to more than €4 million last year, according to figures from a European Union transparency register.

The social media giant has ramped up the amount it spends attempting to influence policy at EU level, as several countries such as France have begun to take a more hardline stance against the company.

Last year Facebook spent between €4.2 million and €4.5 million on EU lobbying activities, and employs 12 full-time lobbyists, according to figures from the transparency database.

In 2017 it had reported spending between €1 million and €1.25 million on EU lobbying efforts, employing five full-time lobbyists. The company’s spending increased to more than €2 million in 2018, according to the database.

There has been increasing political pressure in both Europe and the United States to better regulate the social media firm, amid concerns over the power of the company and the use of its platforms to spread disinformation.

Facebook’s European headquarters is located in Dublin, so it is registered as an Irish-based firm on the EU transparency database. The company spent the most on lobbying in Brussels of any Irish-registered organisation. A spokeswoman for Facebook said it did not wish to comment.

The transparency register is published online and compiled by the EU, based on annual returns from companies and organisations involved in lobbying the European Commission or European Parliament.

Lobbying firm Hume Brophy spent more than €1.2 million last year, according to the database, and its clients included EirGrid, the DAA, Zurich Insurance and Airlines for America.

Business group Ibec recorded a spend from its Brussels office of more than €1.2 million last year, with 10 full-time staff.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch is registered in Ireland and spent between €1.2 million and €1.5 million on EU lobbying last year.

Lobbyists Red Flag spent more than €300,000 on its Brussels operations last year, with its clients including Pernod Ricard, British American Tobacco and American pesticide producer Monsanto.

Last September Margrethe Vestager was reappointed as the EU’s competition commissioner, as well as taking on a new role as executive vice-president for digital policy. Ms Vestager instigated the investigation into Apple over its tax arrangements in Ireland.

Facebook lobbyists met Ms Vestager in February to discuss “digital policy”, according to a public log of her meetings, with officials from the tech company also meeting members of her staff in May.

Phil Hogan, former Fine Gael minister and current EU commissioner for trade, has held meetings on trade policy with companies such as Microsoft, Apple and drinks producer Diageo in recent months, according to logs of his meetings.