(Bloomberg) -- Alphabet Inc.’s Google escalated its spending on Washington lobbyists last year as the technology behemoth fought antitrust scrutiny from both federal enforcers and new legislation that would change the way some of its most popular products work together.
Google’s lobbying expenditures increased 27.5% in 2021 to $9.6 million, according to disclosure reports that were due Thursday. In addition to the specific antitrust bills, some of which could threaten Google’s business model, the company’s Washington team lobbied on a range of issues including cloud computing, the semiconductor supply chain, cybersecurity, global tax issues, pandemic contact tracing and the remote learning technologies that have become a central part of education.
The increase reflects the tougher scrutiny from Washington on the technology companies that have a bigger presence than ever in U.S. economic activity, civil discourse and everyday life. Along with bipartisan concerns about content moderation and user privacy, a new generation of antitrust activists has described these hugely profitable digital companies as the new robber barons that use anticompetitive conduct to maintain and grow their market dominance.
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Google is also fighting antitrust lawsuits from a coalition of states and the U.S. Department of Justice. President Joe Biden last year appointed Jonathan Kanter, a long-time Google critic, to lead the department’s antitrust division.
The lobbying expenditures from two Chinese tech companies exploded last year, according to Thursday’s disclosures. Huawei Technologies Co., the network and telecommunications firm, increased its lobbying budget 488.5% last year, to $3.6 million, as it tried to beat back U.S. restrictions on its networking equipment and procurement options. Despite those headwinds, the company last year increased its share of U.S. patents, coming in behind just four other companies, according to a study by Fairview Research’s IFI Claims Patent Services.
ByteDance Ltd., spent $4.7 million on lobbying last year, up 83.7%, as American lawmakers continued to raise questions about its wildly popular TikTok app, especially the way user data is stored and the effect it has on children and teenagers. Michael Beckerman, TikTok’s head of public policy for the Americas, testified before a Senate subcommittee in October, responding to questions about the platform’s risks for young people.
Other digital companies faced criticism from lawmakers last year, especially Meta Platforms Inc., which was due to file its first lobbying disclosure since dropping Facebook as its corporate name.
Read More: Facebook Changes Name to Meta in Embrace of Virtual Reality
Like Google, Meta is also facing pressure from antitrust legislation and enforcement, including the Federal Trade Commission’s attempt to force the company to sell off Instagram and Whatsapp. The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved a bill that would prohibit platforms like Facebook, Google, Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. from giving an advantage to their own products.
Amazon spent $19.3 million on lobbying in 2021, up 8.2% from a year before. Apple spent $11.4 million last year, mostly maintaining its level of spending from 2020.
Microsoft Corp’s lobbying expenditures also ticked up last year, to $10.2 million, an 8.4% increase from 2020.
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