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Google, Facebook, Microsoft top EU lobbying spending – study | Reuters

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A logo is seen on the New York Google offices after they announced they will postpone their reopening in response to updated CDC guidelines during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., July 29, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kell/File Photo

BRUSSELS, Aug 31 (Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s (AAPL.O) Google unit, Facebook Inc (FB.O) and Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) are the three biggest lobbying spenders in Europe in a battle against tough new laws aimed at curbing U.S. tech giants’ powers, a study released on Tuesday showed.

Such efforts should be a wake-up call to EU policymakers to beef up the draft laws and lobbying rules, the study by campaign groups Corporate Europe Observatory and LobbyControl warned.

The tech sector outspends even the pharma, fossil fuels, finance and chemicals sectors, which used to dominate lobbying, the report said.

“The rising lobby firepower of big tech and the digital industry as a whole mirrors the sectors’ huge and growing role in society,” the study said.

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“It is remarkable and should be a cause of concern that the platforms can use this firepower to ensure their voices are heard – over countervailing and critical voices – in the debate over how to construct new rules for digital platforms.”

The study found that 612 companies, groups and associations spend more than 97 million euros ($114 million) annually lobbying on EU digital economy policies. The data was submitted by companies to the EU Transparency Register up to mid-June this year.

Google topped spending at 5.75 million euros, followed by Facebook at 5.5 million euros, Microsoft at 5.25 million, Apple (AAPL.O) at 3.5 million, Huawei Technologies Co Ltd (HWT.UL) at 3 million and Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) in sixth place with 2.75 million, the study said.

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Google and Huawei responded that they submit their lobbying data to the EU transparency register.

“We have clear policies in place to protect the independence of the people and organisations we sponsor, including a requirement to disclose funding,” Google said in an email.

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Microsoft said: “The European Union has been and remains an important stakeholder for Microsoft. We seek to be a constructive and transparent partner to European policymakers.”

Facebook, Apple and Amazon had no immediate comment.

The tech lobbying focuses on two key pieces of legislation. The Digital Markets’ Act lists do’s and don’ts for tech giants, and the Digital Services Act requires companies to do more to police content on their platforms.

The study warned about the industry’s access to the European Commission, with lobbyists involved in three-quarters of the 270 meetings Commission officials had on the two draft laws.

It also cited the role played by trade and business associations, think tanks and even political parties in promoting the tech industry’s narrative.

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The European Commission rejected the criticism.

“The Commission is open to meeting anyone who wishes to speak to us. The Commission does not, and will not control who requests meetings, nor how often. It is also not for the Commission to explain or comment on lobbying strategies of the different companies and interest representatives,” a spokesperson said in an email to Reuters.

($1 = 0.8476 euros)

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee Editing by Richard Chang and Mark Potter

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Facebook-Meta Earns the ‘Worst Company of 2021’ Title in This Survey

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Facebook has had its share of controversies this year. The company was under more scrutiny after whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked a series of internal documents.

Facebook parent Meta has been named the Worst Company of the Year (2021) by Yahoo Finance respondents. According to the publication, an “open-ended” survey was published on Yahoo Finance on December 4 and 5, where 1,541 respondents participated. Facebook received 8 percent of the write-in vote, but respondents were seemingly mad about the Robinhood trading app as well. Electric truck startup Nikola, which was named last year’s worst company by the same publication also faced respondents ire.

Yahoo Finance notes, “Facebook has had its share of controversies this year.” Starting in January, Meta-owned WhatsApp got caught up in a huge controversy after the messaging app announced a new privacy policy (Terms of Service). WhatsApp said it would collect user information and share it with third-party apps for a better user experience. However, the app gave users no choice but later made modifications to the policy under pressure. Similarly, the company was under more scrutiny after whistleblower and former Facebook employee Frances Haugen leaked a series of internal documents showing the company’s problematic practices. It was revealed that Meta-owned Instagram had a negative impact on teenage girls, but the company did almost nothing to rectify the problem.

Yahoo Finance even highlights, “At the same time, some critics, including conservatives, say Facebook over-policed the platform’s speech and stifled their voices.” Critics also blame Facebook and other social media platforms for not curbing hate speech that led to Capitol Building riots.

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However, around 30 percent of Yahoo Finance readers said that Facebook or Meta could redeem itself. One respondent suggested that the company could issue a formal apology for negligence and donate a sizable amount of its profits to a foundation to help reverse its harm.

On the other hand, respondents chose Microsoft as the Company of the Year (2021). The Satya Nadella-led company touched the trillion-mark this year and introduced notable upgrades. The most notable is the Windows 11 OS update that succeeds Windows 10.

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Facebook pays 1.7 Cr fine to Russia after failing to delete content Moscow deems illegal

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In the latest legal tussle with Russia over controversial social media regulation laws, Facebook paid 17 million roubles (Rs 1.7 Crore) for failing to remove content deemed illegal by Moscow. With a threat of potential larger fines looming, Facebook parent company Meta, owned by Mark Zuckerberg, is scheduled to face court next week over repeated violations of Russian legislation on content, Interfax News Agency reported. As per the latest updates, the social media giant could be fined a percentage of its annual revenue.

In October, Moscow sent state bailiffs to enforce the collection of 17 million roubles. Meanwhile, as per Interfax report citing a federal bailiffs’ database, on Sunday, there were more enforcement proceedings against the company. Apart from the popular social media app, Telegram has also paid 15 million roubles in fines for failing to comply with the Russian social media legislations that came into force in 2016.

Facebook pays $53k to Russia for refusing controversial social media laws

It is pertinent to mention that Facebook has locked horns with Moscow earlier in November, resulting in it paying 4 million roubles ($53,000) over its refusal to adhere to Russian data localisation laws, the Moscow Times reported. The Moscow court on November 25 had said that Facebook paid the fine levied in February, following which all proceedings against the US-based social media giant. The payment comes against the litigation filed against the company in 2018, alongside Twitter. The tech companies were also forced to pay an additional 3000 rubles ($40) for failing to comply with user data sharing rules as per the law. The Russian authorities have also previously blocked LinkedIn, owned by Microsoft, for failing to abide by the laws.

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Russian social media laws

As per Moscow Times, under the Russian social media regulation laws, all foreign technology companies are required to store data related to Russian customers and users on servers located in Russia. Additionally, the Russian tech companies will also have to share encryption data with the federal authorities as well as record user calls, messages and civil society group conversation records. The apparatus is said to be a severe breach of privacy rights and unfettered back-door access to personal data that could be used to harass Kremlin critics.

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

Meta has announced the arrival of a new Split Payments feature in Facebook Messenger. This feature, as the name suggests, will let you calculate and split expenses with others right from Facebook Messenger. This feature essentially looks to bring an easier method to share the cost of bills and expenses — for example, splitting a dinner bill with friends. Using this new Split Payment feature, Facebook Messenger users will be able to split bills evenly or modify the contribution for each individual, including their own.

The company took to its blog post to announce the new Split Payment feature in Facebook Messenger. 9to5Mac reports that this new bill splitting feature is still in beta and will be exclusive to US users at first. The rollout will begin early next week. As mentioned, it will help users share the cost of bills, expenses, and payments. This feature is especially useful for those who share an apartment and need to split the monthly rent and other expenses with their mates. It could also come handy at a group dinner with many people.

With Split Payments, users can add the number of people the expense needs to be divided with and, by default, the amount entered will be divided in equal parts. A user can also modify each person’s contribution including their own. To use Split Payments, click the Get Started button in a group chat or the Payments Hub in Messenger. Users can modify the contribution in the Split Payments option and send a notification to all the users who need to make payments. After entering a personalised message and confirming your Facebook Pay details, the request will be sent and viewable in the group chat thread.

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Once someone has made the payment, you can mark their transaction as ‘completed’. The Split Payment feature will automatically take into account your share as well and calculate the amount owed accordingly.


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Tasneem Akolawala is a Senior Reporter for Gadgets 360. Her reporting expertise encompasses smartphones, wearables, apps, social media, and the overall tech industry. She reports out of Mumbai, and also writes about the ups and downs in the Indian telecom sector. Tasneem can be reached on Twitter at @MuteRiot, and leads, tips, and releases can be sent to tasneema@ndtv.com.

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