A recently-leaked trove of documents revealing Uber’s secretive lobbying tactics, including texts to Macron and meetings with Biden, illuminated a particularly murky area in which the worlds of big tech and policy-making convene.
Tip of the iceberg?
Lobbying firms, and companies who have in-house lobbying efforts, have to disclose in good faith an estimate of how much was spent on lobbying the US government.
That data has been collated by OpenSecrets.org, and it reveals just how much big tech are spending on trying to influence policy — some $70m last year among the selected companies in the chart above. That data is helpful context, but the measurement clearly isn't perfect or exhaustive, as the Uber leak shows. The documents contained evidence that Uber paid academics to publish helpful research and met with numerous world leaders, neither of which likely show up in the lobbying spend data.
Your big tech legislation is _ years away
Big tech is sensible to try and tip the balance of policy in their favor as legislators continue to put tech firmly in their sights. Two antitrust bills that aim to regulate the firms’ immense gatekeeping powers and their tendency to push their own adjacent products to consumers, for example, are currently winding their way through the legislative system.
Although we often bucket them all together, the issues facing big tech are often wildly different. Amazon and Uber might be more concerned about labor reform, Meta about privacy and data collection, while Alphabet, Microsoft and Apple have been criticized for anticompetitive practices.