Facing increased public scrutiny, Google and Facebook spent record amounts of money lobbying the US government on privacy and antitrust policies in 2018, with both companies topping previous highs, new data filings showed.
In quarterly filings to Congress disclosed on Tuesday, Google revealed that it dished out a company-record of $21.2 million on Washington lobbying last year, besting its previous record of $18.22 million from 2012. The search giant spent $18.04 million on lobbying in 2017.
Facebook disclosed a lobbying spend of $12.62 million, which was up from its previous high of $11.51 million in 2017, according to the Washington D.C.-based Center for Responsive Politics which tracks money in politics.
Companies like Google and Facebook have faced increased scrutiny into their policies and practices in recent years. Both have been accused of using “dark patterns” to trick their users into adopting certain privacy policies and using “misleading wording” to make the policies too convoluted for users to figure out. They have also battled accusations of political bias against both right wing and left wing activists
Lawmakers and regulators around the world have been weighing new privacy and antitrust rules to limit the power of huge tech giants.
Google has consistently ranked among the top spenders when it comes to lobbying the government, alongside defense contractors and healthcare firms. The search giant said its discussions with lobbyists focused on search technology, criminal justice reform, and international tax reform.
Filings showed that Facebook was lobbying the Federal Trade Commission, which is looking into its data security policies. After facing political scrutiny over “fake news” and the origin of ads on its platform during the 2016 presidential election in the US, the social media giant said, however, that its discussions in Washington focused on “election integrity.”
Microsoft Corp. and Apple Inc. were also busy lobbying the government last year. Microsoft spent $9.52 million according to the filings, up from $8.5 million in 2017 — but down from its high of $10.5 million in 2013. Apple spent $6.62 million down from its record of $7.15 million last year.
Filings for online retail giant Amazon are expected to be released soon.