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Google, Facebook spend big on US lobbying amid policy battles

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Alphabet’s Google disclosed in a quarterly filing that it spend a record $21.2 million on lobbying the US government in 2018, topping its previous high of $18.22 million in 2012

Social media giant Facebook also disclosed that it spent more on government lobbying in 2018 than it ever had before at $12.62mn. This was up from $11.51mn a year ago, according to tracking by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Google’s spent $18.04mn on lobbying in 2017, according to the center’s data. Both Google and Facebook declined to comment beyond their filings.

US lawmakers and regulators have weighed new privacy and antitrust rules to rein in the power of large internet service providers such as Google, Facebook and Amazon. Regulatory backlash in the United States, as well as Europe and Asia, is near the top of the list of concerns for technology investors, according to financial analysts.

Microsoft also disclosed its lobby spend, it being $9.52mn. This was up from $8.5mn in 2017, but below its $10.5mn tab in 2013.

Apple spent $6.62mn last year, compared to its record of $7.15mn in 2017, according to center data going back to 1998.

Apple and Microsoft also did not respond to requests to comment. A filing from Amazon was expected later on Tuesday.

According to Google’s disclosure, new discussion topics with regulators in the fourth quarter included its search technology, criminal justice reform and international tax reform. The company is perennially among the top spenders on lobbying in Washington.

Google CEO Sunder Pichai, who testified in December before a US House of Representatives panel for the first time, has said the company backs the idea of national privacy legislation. But he has contested accusations of the company having a political bias in its search results and of stifling competition.

Susan Molinari, Google’s top US public policy official, stepped down to take on an advisory role this month.

Facebook has stated that its discussing “election integrity” with national security officials was among its new lobbying areas in the fourth quarter. The filing said the company continued to lobby the Federal Trade Commission, which is investigating its data security practices.

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