Source: Transparency International EU

Annual Budget and number of meetings with the European Commissioon since 2014

1. Microsoft: € 4.5 million, 84 high level meetings with the EC

2. Google: € 4.25 million, 153 high level meetings with the EC

3. Amazon: € 1.75 million, 33 high level meetings with the EC

4. Facebook: € 1.00 million, 68 high level meetings with the EC

5. Apple: € 1.00 million, 26 high level meetings with the EC


Google Lobbying Campaign

Google has in an unprecedented manner stepped up their Brussels lobbying efforts during the last few years, massively increasing their spending on lobbying and other activities in a very comprehensive and multifaceted lobbying campaign aimed at influencing the European Commission's decisions. Google has employed several former EU officials as in-house lobbyists, and has funded European thinktanks and university research favourable to its position as part of its broader campaign.

Google's expansion of its lobbying activities in Brussels has come in response to a growing number of threats to its business in the EU, where it dominates about 90¨% of the search market. It argues that its rivals lobby just as hard against it, if not harder.

Last year, the company spent more than twice as much on lobbying, in Brussels than Apple, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter and Uber combined. Yet Google is still being outspent by Microsoft, which some suspect is backing an anti-Google lobby in Brussels.

Official transparency data shows Google has increased its annual lobbying spending from € 600,000 in 2011 to over € 4 million last year. In addition to its team of in-house lobbyists, many of whom have come from jobs in the European Commission or the European Parliament, the company has employed eight European lobbying firms.

As part of its broader public affairs program, Google has invested heavily in European academic institutions to develop an influential network of friendly academics to think tanks, universities and professors that write research supporting its business interests. Those academics and institutions span the length and breadth of Europe, from countries with major influence in European Union policymaking, such as Germany and France, to Eastern Europe nations like Poland. Google-funded institutions have published hundreds of papers on issues central to the company's business, from antitrust enforcement to regulation governing privacy, copyright and the 'right to be forgotten'. Events organized by Google-funded institutions have attracted many of the European policymakers charged with creating and enforcing regulation affecting the company.

Google's academic influence program in Europe has gone beyond funding existing academic institutions to helping create new institutes and think-tanks in key countries like Germany, France and the United Kingdom. In those countries, executives from Google's lobbying operation have helped conceive research groups and covered most, or all, of their budgets for years after launch. Google's policy executives have acted as liaisons to steer their research priorities and host public events with policymakers.

Germany: Google has paid at least € 9 million to help set up in 2011 the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) at Berlin's Humboldt University. The Institute has so far published more than 240 scholarly papers and reports on internet policy issues, many on issues of central importance to Google's bottom line. HIIG also runs a Google-funded journal, with which several Google-funded scholars are affiliated to publish such research. The Institute's reach extends beyond Germany, and even Europe. HIIG previoulsy manage and still paticipate, in a global Network of Internet and Society Research Centers to coordinate internet policy scholarship. Many are in emerging markets where Google is trying to expand its footprint, such as India and Brazil.

United Kingdom: In the United Kingdom, the company has funded the Research Alliance for a Digital Economie (Readie), which has hosted several policy conferences with European Commission officials and published dozens of articles and publications on policy issues important to Google.

France: In France, Google helped launch Net: Lab, a similar group that was set up to 'provide an open platform for debate involving experts, policymakers and users' and 'make concrete proposals to advance the societal, legal, academic, and political debate' on technology issues.

Poland: In Poland, Google has funded the Digital Economy Lab (DELAB) at the University of Warsaw, similarly described as an interdisciplinary institute that is involved in research and design policies governing technology issues.

Google has also created and endowed chairs at higher-learning institutions in European countries including France, Spain, Belgium and Poland. Those chairs have often been occupied by academics with a track record of producing research that closely aligns with Google's policy priorities.

Google-financed research and Google-funded academics have become intertwined with research commissioned by the European authorities themselves. In one case, Google and the European Commission jointly financed a study by the Lisbon Council for Economic Competitiveness and Social Renewal that included arguments supporting less restrictive copyright and intellectual property rules, which Google favors. In another, the European Commission commissioned academics from Google-funded think-tank to make policy recommendations on whether regulations helps or hampers innovation. The research was cited in a subsequent European Commission policy paper..

In Europe, Google has also replicated some of the tactics it has emplpyed in the United States, where it has spent millions of dollars a year to produce favorable policy papers from universities like Stanford and Harvard, and from Washington think-tanks like the New America Foundation. For example, Google started funding one of Brussel's most influential think-tanks, the Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS). After Google became a corporate member of CEPS, the think-tanks scholars began participating in panels and publishing a series of policy papers opposing European Commission's investigations of Google. CEPS has also hosted Google-friendly conferences for government leaders. In November 2017, the think-tank co-sponsored a forum with the EU's assembly of local and regional representatives, the European Committee of the Regions.

Final Note: 

Europe's importance for Google cannot be overstated. It is both a key market, with usage rates above 80 percent in many countries, and the most organized source of opposition to its expansion plans. The European Commission is arguably the only regulator beyond the U.S. with sufficient clout to cause Google to alter its conduct. European officials have levied billions of dollars in fines for antitrust violations and have enacted some of the most stringent laws in the world to protect consumer privacy. Google's European academic network helps the company exert a subtle and insidious form of influence on the region's policymakers, which often goes unnoticed by those who are being influenced.

Add new comment