Open letter to Vestager and Breton: Aggressive lobbying by digital platforms must have consequences

In an open letter, ALTER-EU Alliance warned the EU Commissioners Margrethe Vestager and Thierry Breton against the aggressive and opaque lobbying work by Google and other digital companies - and called for more commitment to lobby transparency. This includes:

  • Not participating in lobbying meetings or events with those who do not disclose their connections (financial or membership) to tech corporations;
  • Calling on tech companies to expose their European lobby networks, similar to what they have to do in the US;
  • Finding a balance in consulting business interests and civil society voices;
  • Further developing the EU transparency register so that registred Think Tanks are also obliged disclose their funding.

Recent and worrisome events prompted our letter. One week before the EU Commission publishes the draft of new rules for digital platforms (Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act), a meeting with large digital corporations is planned. The responsible commissioners Vestager and Breton want to discuss the draft for the new rules on December 2nd with the unilateral participation of tech companies. Participants include Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple, but consumer advocates and civil society organizations will not attend the summit. Such a one-sided meeting with tech companies to kick off discussions about stricter rules for Internet platforms sends the wrong signal. Instead, transparency and balance are the order of the day for the upcoming legislative process. The important decisions that are being made now must not be unilaterally determined by corporate interests.

In addition, recent reports have unveiled Google's aggressive and non-transparent lobbying strategy. A leaked lobby strategy from Google clearly shows how aggressively and opaque the Internet platform wants to prevent pending rules. In doing so, Google pulls out all the stops and, in addition to its in-house platform, YouTube, primarily relies on a broad lobby network of think tanks. The connections to the think tanks are partially opaque. Moreover, Google also finances associations of small and medium-sized companies, such as Allied For Startups, in order to covertly convey their own interests to political decision-makers. The EU commissioners Vestager and Breton should send a clear signal against this one-sided lobbying influence. Right from the start.