October 1, 2011

Facebook's Rising [Global] Political Influence (Guest Post)

By Roberto De Primis 

In 2010, Facebook spent 351,390 USD paying lobbyists based in Washington DC (while Apple and Yahoo paid respectively 1.6 M USD and 2.2 M USD). These figures are far away what Google invested in lobbying in 2010: 5.16 M USD (+29% in relation with 2010 figures). Microsoft is still on the top of the ranking (web companies) with 6.9 M USD spent during 2010.

This year, Facebook expeditures for lobby activities soars and will reach 1 M USD at the end of 2011. Zuckerberg clearly wants to be a tough player in Washington power game. The US Senate discloses quarterly all the details and figures about lobby activites.

In other words, Facebook is enhancing its ties with Washington because of a growing range of issues related to its own business: cyber security, privacy, patent reform and international regulation (privacy is considered as a top priority).

The company hired in Febbruary 2011 two lobby group; Fierce Isakowitz & Blalock (http://fierce-isakowitz-blalock.com/) close to Republicans, and Elmendorf Strategies (http://elmendorfstrategis.com) close to Democrats. This month, it appointed to its board Erskine Bowles, a White House chief of staff under Bill Clinton and co-chairman of Obama commission on fiscal responsibility. Additionally, a former deputy chief of staff under George W. Bush, Joel Kaplan, also joined Facebook.

Last Wednesday, Financial Times (European edition p.18) declared that Facebook has formed an official political action committee to allow it to donate cash to political candidates, signalling its increasing efforts to influence Washington. Because the company wants to play a key role during the next 2012 presidential election, the company registered fbpac.org and fbpac.us as a platform web adress for this committee.

The giant Social network is not only lobbying member of the Congress (House and Senate) but Federal agencies as well. According to venturebeat.com, lobbyists working for Facebook approached the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, an umbrella office founded in the wake of Sept. 11 that synthetizes intelligence from 17 agencies including the CIA and advises the President.

Facebook spent a lot of time and money on Capitol hill because it is based in the US; however, it has been very active and agressively hired around the world: India, Brussels (for the EU) and Germany. Countries where the Silicon Valley company tried to lowered the negative attention on her about privacy issues.

In Brussels, Facebook has just opened an office dedicated only to lobby the EU institution and better advocate his interests.

About The Author - Roberto De Primis is a business intelligence analyst with an M.A. in Political Science. from E.M. Solvay Business School. Writing from Brussels, he is the founder of Eurintelligence, linking economics, and finance with politics.  (EconMatters author archive here.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are the author's own, and do not necessarily reflect those of EconMatters.

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