23rd September 2021
EU: Don’t get into bed with Big Tech
CONTACT: Olivia Boyd on +44 (0)7977 272 193 or to speak to Eoin Dubsky +31 641 636 410 at the protest in Brussels
Images of the SumOfUs stunt can be found here
New “playbook” exposes five key ways Big Tech courts lawmakers, while activist group SumOfUs highlights these “seduction” techniques with a visual protest right outside the European Commission.
Brussels -- In response to new research revealing the millions Big Tech has pumped into lobbying operations in the EU, the global campaign group SumOfUs installed a full-size bed outside the European Commission headquarters sending a message to European leaders: “Don’t get into bed with Big Tech.” Depicted together are Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and EU officials atop a bedspread with money.
This follows new revelations from Lobby Control and Corporate Europe Observatory that 75% of high-level EU Commission meetings on the pending Digital Services Act (DSA) and Digital Markets Act (DMA) have taken place with digital industry lobbyists. This has left civil society jockeying for the remaining few slots. Big Tech’s lobbying campaign has since moved on to target national governments and Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). And no companies -- across any sector in Europe -- spend more on lobbying today than Google, Facebook, or Microsoft. The digital industry as a whole is pouring upwards of €97 million on lobbying the EU each year.
Accompanying the protest action was also the publication of a “playbook” which highlights the five key ways Big Tech companies lobby the EU -- from claiming to be the experts on how to regulate their own industry, to spreading fear about Europe falling behind China, to touting reports from think tank groups that they themselves fund -- Big Tech lobbyists have refined their key narratives to use with lawmakers, and are using them to try writing the rules that will regulate their own industry.
The protest and “playbook” are part of a new civil society mobilisation effort under a “People vs Big Tech” banner. Its first goal is to ensure that citizens’ voices are heard louder than trillion-dollar tech companies in Brussels as the EU drafts digital regulation. That’s why over 60 organisations have signed the People’s Declaration which has 3 key demands: an end to the toxic algorithms that amplify hate and disinformation, freedom from endless surveillance and data extraction for profit and stronger enforcement of new laws. The organizations that have signed so far represent nearly 26 million people across the EU.
SumOfUs campaigner, Eoin Dubsky said:
“Big Tech is going to use every dirty trick in the book to block these tough new European laws. They will spend millions of euros and send in an army of lobbyists to derail any attempt to regulate them meaningfully.
“Last week’s leaked Facebook memos confirmed that Big Tech is utterly incapable of regulating itself. These arrogant tech bosses are sitting on mountains of secret research showing the harm they are causing, but when called to account they deny there is a problem. It’s gaslighting on a massive scale.”
The playbook, along with this infographic, were sent to all MEPs early on Wednesday. SumOfUs has also contacted the Shadow Rapporteurs of the European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) who are currently considering amendments to both the Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act.
Member of the European Parliament, Tiemo Wolken said:
"The Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act can put a stop to the surveillance machine of the big platforms.
“We should imagine them as a new digital constitution for Europe that puts citizens' rights first, holds Big Tech accountable for their abusive behaviour and ends their manipulative practices."
Advocacy group Global Witness -- also part of the People vs Big Tech initiative -- earlier this week released a Twitter bot that tweets out every time a senior European Commission official is scheduled to meet with a Big Tech lobbyist. On average during August, the bot tweeted twice a week, but campaigners expect this number to increase as negotiations around the DSA ramp up.
Over the coming weeks and leading up to the final DSA vote, the People vs Big Tech will be releasing reports, campaigns, and media materials. These efforts will be coupled with public pressure and advocacy tactics on MEPs ahead of key deciding moments.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
- For more information, or to set up an interview with Lobby Control, Corporate Europe Observatory, SumOfUs, Global Witness or another member of the People vs Big Tech initiative, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Google spends the most on EU lobbying operations, with €5.75 million, followed by Facebook’s €5.5 million, and Microsoft’s €5.25 million. (P6, Big Tech’s web of influence in the EU)
- Global Witness’ own analysis of the LobbyFacts database run by Corporate Europe Observatory and LobbyControl suggests around €150 million has been spent on EU lobbying for Big Tech since 2010, either by the companies themselves or their biggest trade associations. Big Tech lobbyists held around 1,000 meetings with senior Commission officials, since November 2014 when officials began disclosing lobbying meetings. This is an average of more than 2.8 meetings a week. It also doesn’t look like Covid has reduced the scale of lobbying much. Since January 2020 there have been almost 200 meetings between Big Tech lobbyists and senior Commission officials.