The problems with Facebook’s lobbying

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In recent years, Facebook has emerged as one of the leading global tech companies and its lobbyists have been part of the industry’s success in Washington D.C. Despite its success, Facebook has come under scrutiny from its staff who have complained for years about their lobbyists’ power.

This article explores the issues associated with Facebook’s lobbying practices which has raised concerns from staff members. The discussion will be based on several key points: a review of past and current lobbying strategies employed by the company; an analysis of the role those strategies have had on legislative outcomes; and displaying quotes from staff members that explain why they believe the problem is an ongoing one.

Finally, this article will look at other possible solutions that could address this problem in a way that would be satisfactory to all parties involved.

History of Facebook’s Lobbying

For years, Facebook employees have been complaining about the company’s lobbyists’ power and ability to influence policy decisions. This has been a source of friction between the staff and the company’s leadership.

In this article, we’ll look at the history of Facebook’s lobbying and the problems it has caused for the company.

The Growth of Facebook’s Lobbying Team

The launch of Facebook in 2004 occurred during a watershed moment in the history of lobbying and public affairs. By 2012, the Internet had changed rapidly, with the rise of new business models, technologies and platforms. It was clear that regulating this new digital economy would be fraught with difficulty.

Recognizing both the opportunities and challenges this posed, Facebook launched its first dedicated corporate lobbying team in 2008. The team grew significantly over time; by 2012 it had 26 full-time staff–more than Silicon Valley rivals Google and Amazon at the time–and doubled that size by 2016. More recently, it has added up to 17 outside lobbyists from firms such as Podesta Group and BGR Group to augment their influence further.

Initially limited to Washington D.C., the team now operates globally with offices worldwide including Brussels, London, Dublin and Singapore, allowing them to weigh in on regulatory matters nationally and globally.

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Despite growing its lobbying outfit without fail each year since then, some former staffers have long complained about how little impact their efforts made compared to other corporate giants like Apple or Microsoft who typically attracted hundreds of millions more annual lobby spend than Facebook during some years throughout the decade. The difficulties felt by its lobbyists was seemingly illustrated during two of Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional hearings when they were openly criticized for failing to tackle key issues such as data privacy and hate speech despite spending lavishly on fancy meals for politicians.

The Role of Lobbyists in Facebook’s Political Influence

Facebook has long been under fire for its lobbying efforts, especially as some of its staff have complained for years about their lobbyists’ power. But, Facebook lobbying is increasingly essential to the tech giants’ success in shaping legislation around data privacy and its power over its users.

The Federal Election Commission constantly monitors Facebook’s lobbying activities, watchdog groups such as Campaign For Accountability across United States states, and initiatives like the International Platform Accountability Collaborative (IPA) that monitor various tech companies’ political influence around the world.

In 2020 alone, Facebook spent record-breaking sums on federal lobbyists. They are not shy about their ambition to encourage lawmakers to craft laws which benefit them directly rather than incur costs. According to OpenSecrets, Facebook’s total lobbying spending surpassed $21 million in 2020 — just shy of Microsoft’s total of $21.8 million spent during that same period.

This spending came alongside additional money spent since 2018 on an expanding network of federal lobbyists connected to outgoing President Donald Trump and his inner circle. Its interests have included:

  • Support for a watered-down version of California’s 2018 internet privacy law.
  • Swaying members of Congress against more stringent regulation.
  • Pushing back against antitrust investigations into its business practices.

Furthermore, documents reveal additional forms of influence wielded by Facebook like executive hiring from congressional offices as well as investment in local television advertising campaigns across key congressional races — both before major decisions were made on Capitol Hill or at state legislatures concerning it proposed policies coming out of San Francisco or Washington DC headquarters around data protection or taxation matters that threatened profitability margins at Menlo Park HQs too often leading some criticize this form of corporate cronyism getting involved too deep into sectarian political decision making process itself.

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Facebook staff complained for years about their lobbyists’ power

For years, Facebook staff have raised concerns about the influence of their lobbyists on the company’s decisions. Although it is not unusual for large companies to have lobbyists, Facebook’s reliance on lobbyists, and their influence within the organization, have caused significant problems.

For years, Facebook staff have complained about the company’s powerful lobbyists, who often aggressively push their agendas which could benefit Facebook’s bottom line but not necessarily serve the public interest. The company has also been accused of using its lobbyists to influence lawmakers and try to influence regulatory decisions.

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A recent report by the Financial Times uncovered numerous cases of Facebook pushing its views via lobbying tactics such as informal meetings, direct lobbying activities and ‘astroturfing’. Astroturfing involves leveraging existing support networks or creating new ones via social media to simulate grassroots movements and build support for a particular cause. In some cases it has been alleged that Facebook paid groups of people to post positively about the company or negatively about competitors on public forums.

This aggressive lobbying has raised concerns about potential conflicts of interest between Facebook employees and third-party lobbyists hired by the company and potential violations of anti-corruption laws. Additionally, critics have warned that this kind of influence over legislators may be in the way of necessary regulations to protect consumers from harmful online practices such as data breaches or false advertising campaigns.

It is clear that with their unparalleled power comes great responsibility for tech giants like Facebook — it is their duty to ensure that any use of this power is compliant with anti-corruption laws and serves the best interests of its users instead of purely achieving profit outcomes through political maneuvering.

Facebook’s Lobbying Tactics Have Been Criticized

Facebook’s lobbying tactics have long been criticized, with staff complaining for years about the outsized power wielded by lobbyists. In a 2018 exposé, The New York Times reported several former Facebook officials described the pressure to prioritize “favored outcomes” over details of policy proposals. In addition, executives and employees worry that the company’s focus on robust taxpayer-funded lobbying efforts has led to an unbalanced approach to advocacy, leaving the public at risk of misleading information and unaccountable industry practices.

The company has deployed numerous strategies for gaining influence in Washington D.C. It has sourced top talent straight from Capitol Hill by recruiting former congressional staffers with insider access and knowledge of legislation and policy matters. On multiple occasions Facebook has undermined antitrust discussions on social media platforms, backed FCC efforts against net neutrality, gained support for measures that weakened data privacy laws, and secured tax exemptions at international conferences including IMF meetings in 2019.

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Additionally, it has contributed financially to both parties in Congress more than any other tech giant since 2007 and was recently seen spending a record-breaking amount of money – $13 million – on federal lobbying activities between July 2020 – June 2021.

These aggressive tactics can be tough on lawmakers grappling with difficult decisions involving hefty implications for privacy rights and commitments to protecting citizens from outside interference. With so much power vested in corporations such as Facebook—which hold considerable sway over democracy—clear boundaries must be employed within this sector before further issues arise due to unchecked authority or rogue operations executed with impunity.

Facebook’s Lobbying Practices Have Led to Controversy

Facebook’s lobbying efforts have caused controversy and staff members have long complained about the power their lobbyists held. The company has spent millions of dollars on lobbyists to influence politicians in Washington D.C., and the practice has drawn criticism from consumer advocacy groups. Many of these groups point out that the money Facebook spends on lobbying is effectively a form of corporate welfare—a tax break for big businesses at the expense of consumers.

The most infamous example of Facebook’s use of lobbyists was its aggressive effort to get the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) passed in Congress in 2012. This bill sought to give Big Tech companies more control over digital content. While it ultimately failed, Facebook’s involvement was exposed as part of a New York Times investigation into questionable practices being employed by Silicon Valley companies when dealing with Washington DC politicians.

More recently, there has been controversy over Facebook’s dealings with Data for Democracy (D4D). D4D is a group of ex-government data scientists seeking to apply their expertise in government service delivery systems such as healthcare and immigration policy. Still, this effort appears to have been hampered by tough privacy policies imposed by Facebook. There have also been reports that some former employees from D4D were prevented from working with governments due to contracts signed with one or more nearby lobbyist firms owned by former colleagues at Facebook.

All these examples helped bring into focus the influence wielded by spending millions on lobbying efforts which many view as an attempt at buying preferential treatment from lawmakers—treating them like customers instead of elected officials sworn to defend the public interest.


In summary, a large gap exists between employees’ perception of lobbyists’ influence on Facebook’s decision-making and the actual scope of their influence. With an influential team of lobbyists, Facebook has been able to successfully lobby for regulatory exemptions and other favors from governments around the world. However, their attempts to shape public opinion by influencing media coverage has been largely unsuccessful due to continued negative press attention on many of its controversies.

Finally, recent reports show that Facebook staff have expressed strong dissatisfaction with the power of lobbying for years. Still, little has been done to address their concerns or limit the power lobbyists have at the company. Ultimately, it seems that if Facebook wants to tighten its grip on politics and gain more approval from its staff, then it needs to re-examine its policy with lobbyists and take employee feedback into account when making key decisions about lobbying activities in the future.

tags = Meta, Faceook, Twitter, Mark Zuckerberg, profile joel kaplan washington meta bidenwoffordwired, Kaplan

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