Google in last-ditch lobbying attempt to influence incoming EU tech rules

Jorisvo | Getty Images

Google is making a last-ditch effort to change the EU’s incoming laws on Big Tech with a flurry of advertising, emails, and targeted social media posts aimed at politicians and officials in Brussels.

As EU policymakers put the finishing touches to the Digital Markets Act (DMA), executives at Google’s headquarters in Silicon Valley are stepping up their efforts to water down parts of the legislation that they fear may have a severe impact on their business.

“Top executives in California have known about the DMA all along, but they are only waking up now,” said one Google insider.

The campaign includes direct lobbying by Google, but also by several trade associations that the search engine giant funds.

Kim van Sparrentak, a Dutch MEP, said she had noticed a marked escalation in lobbying in recent weeks, with the message that curbing Google would harm small businesses.

She said she had been invited to discuss her views with Google, at a time of her choosing, and had been invited to an event organized by the company on the benefits of digital marketing to small businesses.

She was also lobbied by the Connected Commerce Council, whose partners include Google and Amazon, with a letter signed by small business owners saying, “Please don’t make it harder for my business.”

Other MEPs and officials said their Twitter feeds had recently been filled with adverts from tech lobby groups on issues that Google particularly cares about. “My feed is on overdrive,” said one EU diplomat.

One campaign against a proposed ban on targeted advertising, which appeared on Twitter and in the trade press, was led by IAB Europe.

“I’m being targeted with a nearly unrecognizable ad aimed at EU officials promoting false info and solely referring to studies of IAB,” Alderik Oosthoek, a policy adviser at the European Parliament, wrote on Twitter.

The DMA, which has made smooth progress so far through the EU parliament and is likely to come into force at the beginning of 2023, aims to curb the power of big tech “gatekeepers”—companies such as Google whose platforms dominate the online economy. Last week, Germany’s competition watchdog formally defined Google as a “gatekeeper,” opening it up to more stringent domestic oversight.