Alphabet Inc’s Google disclosed in a quarterly filing on Tuesday that it spent a company-record $21.2 million on lobbying the U.S. government in 2018, topping its previous high of $18.22 million in 2012.
Google shelled out more than $21 million last year to lobby Congress, the White House and key federal agencies on issues including online privacy, an analysis of the disclosure reports by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. That marks a new record for the search giant, which spent roughly $18 million in 2017 — more than any other company across all industries — to influence policymakers in the nation’s capital.
Seperately, Facebook disclosed that it also spent more on government lobbying in 2018 than it ever had before at $12.62 million. That was up from $11.51 million a year ago. Twitter also broke its own annual record, spending more than $1 million for the first time, according to the reports. Along with privacy, the two Web giants faced sustained scrutiny on Capitol Hill in 2018 targeting the algorithms that power popular websites and services — and the industry’s efforts to stop the spread of abusive content, including hate speech and misinformation.
For some in Silicon Valley, the lobbying blitz followed a series of scandals starting with Facebook’s mishandling of its users' private data. The incident incensed lawmakers, who began threatening new regulation of the entire tech industry and eventually forced top executives — including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey — to testify for the first time on Capitol Hill.
Amazon spent a record $14 million in lobbying in 2018 in part to address its own privacy woes, its disclosures reflect. Privacy watchdogs, including the American Civil Liberties Union, questioned all year whether Amazon had put in place appropriate safeguards on facial-recognition tools that it sells to law enforcement. The e-commerce giant also grappled with fresh doubts in Congress about the size of its corporate footprint — and whether the company put its rivals at a disadvantage.
Microsoft spent $9.52 million on lobbying in 2018, according to its disclosure on Tuesday, up from $8.5 million in 2017 but below its $10.5 million tab in 2013.
Apple spent $6.62 million last year, compared to its record of $7.15 million in 2017, according to center data going back to 1998.
Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft spent a combined $64 million to shape U.S. regulations and stave off government scrutiny in 2018.