Skip to main content

Google, Facebook now buying even more favors in Washington

This is what American democracy looks like: Google spent $16.48 million on lobbying efforts in 2012, an increase of 70 percent over the $9.68 million it spent in 2011. And Facebook’s lobbying dollars rose even more: from $1.36 million in 2011 to nearly $4 million in 2012 – an increase of 196 percent.

These numbers come directly from the U.S. House of Representatives’ Lobbying Disclosure database, and were compiled by citizen advocacy group Consumer Watchdog, which sees the increase in lobbying dollars from Internet companies as a sad continuation of corporations influencing lawmakers.

“Google and Facebook would have you believe that they are different from other corporations,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director, in a statement. “They are not. They are following the corrupt corporate tradition in Washington: buying what you want.”

The boost in lobbying dollars from Google and Facebook in 2012 came as the U.S. government increased its scrutiny of Internet-related issues. Google recently skirted serious action from the Federal Trade Commission, which was investigating the search giant for antitrust violations. And Facebook avoided fines from the FTC in exchange for agreeing to strict rules regarding user privacy.

Facebook, which boosted its lobbying spending to $1.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2012, pushed for a number of issues, including the government handling of “Do Not Track” technology, reforms to the Children’s Online Privacy Act, immigration reform for high-skilled workers, and opposition to a United Nations treaty that the company believed would inhibit Internet access in international regions – all signs that the company wants to make its presence known in D.C.

“Our presence and growth in Washington reflect our commitment to explaining how our service works, the actions we take to protect the billion plus people who use our service, the importance of preserving an open Internet, and the value of innovation to our economy,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill.

While Google and Facebook have the most notable increases in lobbying spending, they aren’t alone. Microsoft upped its spending by 10.2 percent, to $7.34 million. And Amazon spending jumped from $2.22 million to $2.5 million, a 12.6 percent increase.

Verizon, AT&T, and Apple all decreased money spent on lobbying in 2012.

Editors' Recommendations

Snapchat may owe you money just for using filters — here’s how to get paid
A person using Snapchat on an iPhone.

Snapchat is currently in a bit of hot water with the state of Illinois following a class-action lawsuit that alleges that the company violated the privacy rights of Illinois app users. While the suit is still ongoing, parent company Snap Inc. could owe residents up to $35 million. That number is subject to change as the lawsuit continues toward its final approval, which is scheduled for November, according to NBC Chicago.

Although it's never a good thing when a tech company violates the rights of its userbase, the silver lining here is that Snapchat users could be getting a check in the mail as long as they fill out the required forms.
What rights did Snapchat violate?

Read more
Breaking down the Twitter whistleblower allegations and how it affects the Musk takeover
Jack Dorsey sits in front of a Twitter logo.

On Tuesday, The Washington Post published an extensive report about a Twitter whistleblower who alleges that the social media company's executives have misled, well, just about everyone (but especially federal regulators and Twitter's own board of directors), about its own security issues. The whistleblower complaint details quite a few alleged serious problems at Twitter, including security issues and a lack of resources to fully address disinformation. Notably, the complaint also mentions Twitter's spam and bot issues. If you've been following along with the Elon Musk Twitter takeover saga, you know that ascertaining the true number of bots on the bird app has been a particular roadblock for Twitter's acquisition.

In July, the complaint was filed with two agencies (the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), as well as the Department of Justice. And the complaint wasn't filed by just anybody. The whistleblower was none other than Twitter's former head of security, Peiter Zatko. Zatko is also a well-respected hacker himself, also known as "Mudge."

Read more
Facebook Messenger finally starts testing end-to-end encryption for all chats
facebook messenger testing end to encryption all chats default

Meta has announced it will be testing default end-to-end encryption on Facebook Messenger. The social media company said in a press release on Thursday that testing has already begun "between some people" earlier this week, and that it will be working to make the privacy feature default for all messages and calls in 2023.

If you're part of the test group, your frequent chats will be automatically end-to-end encrypted, thereby rendering end-to-end encryption non-optional. This means that any conversation between you and a friend or family member can't be accessed by Meta or anyone else. The only way Meta will see your messages is if you report them to the company if they threaten your safety in any way.

Read more