Tech lobbying booms

{mosads}The petition was part of a massive Web protest that included major sites like Wikipedia. Google covered its iconic logo with a black censorship bar. Users who clicked on the bar were redirected to a page claiming the legislation would “censor the Web and impose harmful regulations on American businesses.”

The protests sparked an explosion of voter anger that forced lawmakers to pull the legislation.

The protest was Google’s most visible action against the anti-piracy legislation, but the company’s lobbyists also engaged in more traditional advocacy on the issue, such as meeting with lawmakers to make their case.

Google also disclosed that it has lobbied Congress and the White House over antitrust issues.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is investigating whether Google has violated antitrust law by giving a boost to its own products and services in its search results. Google Chairman Eric Schmidt was forced to defend his company’s business practices before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust subpanel in September.

Google has come under intensified scrutiny in recent weeks after it launched “Search plus Your World,” a feature that highlights its own social media content in search results. Consumer groups and Web competitors, including Twitter, have argued the feature is anti-competitive.  

Facebook’s lobbying presence exploded in 2011. The social network spent $1.4 million on lobbying, an increase of 284 percent over the previous year. 

One of Facebook’s top lobbyists is Joel Kaplan, who served as the deputy chief of staff for policy in the George W. Bush administration.

Facebook lobbyists focused on privacy and data collection legislation, according to the disclosure forms. 

Lawmakers, including Reps. Joe Barton (R-Texas), Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), have repeatedly criticized Facebook for its handling of its users’ private data.

The social network settled charges with the FTC last year that it violated its own privacy policies and misled consumers. 

Although Facebook was lower-profile than Google in its opposition to the anti-piracy legislation, the disclosure forms show the company also lobbied Congress and the White House on the issue.

Apple, which recently overtook ExxonMobil as the world’s most valuable company, spent $2.3 million on lobbying in 2011, an increase of 40 percent over 2010.

The company lobbied on patent reform legislation, which President Obama signed into law in September. 

Apple is also lobbying for spectrum legislation, which would restructure how the country uses its airwaves. Wireless companies are trying to get access to more airwave frequencies, and Apple and other tech companies want to see more frequency bands dedicated to unlicensed use, which any company can use for free.

AT&T beefed up its lobbying spending 31 percent in 2011 as it fought to get regulatory approval of its $39 billion bid to buy T-Mobile. Overall, AT&T spent $20.2 million on lobbying, but the company has already begun to shed lobbyists after it abandoned the deal last month in the face of opposition from the Obama administration.

Twitter, the popular social media service, has yet to hire any lobbyists.

—Rachel Leven contributed.
Tags Edward Markey Jay Rockefeller
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