Facebook Already Spent $4.3 Million Lobbying This Year

Facebook spent $4.3 on lobbying in the United States during the first quarter of 2018, disclosures filed with the government Friday showed. The multi-million dollar effort marks the largest tab the company has ever racked up on lobbying in a single quarter.

According to the documents, Facebook spent much of its time lobbying the White House, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives, and a number of government agencies including the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission.

Facebook covered a wide array of topics in its efforts, making its opinion heard on a number of topics that relate to the company's business interests as well as putting its thumb on the scale as Congress weighed new legislation that would affect the internet and tech industry.

The social network firm took up discussions on a "comprehensive reform" of the immigration system, "including temporary high-tech worker visas and employment-based permanent residency," likely in response to the current administration's decision to temporarily suspend H-1B visas that are routinely used by tech firms to bring in foreign workers. (Facebook was one of the top 15 employers for H-1B visa recipients in 2017, according to the National Foundation for American Policy.)

Facebook also communicated its position on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, better known as DACA. Company founder Mark Zuckerberg was one of a number of tech CEOs to publicly speak up against President Donald Trump's decision to end DACA.

Facebook also lobbied on a number of the more heated technology policy debates that have taken place on Capitol Hill. It took part in discussions on net neutrality, which the company has supported and - through another lobbying group - joined a lawsuit against the FCC following the decision to overturn net neutrality protections.

The company also used its lobbying power to contribute to conversations on the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), a controversial bill that eventually passed through Congress and was signed into law by President Trump. SESTA, which had the support of Facebook, is ostensibly designed to crack down on websites that enable human trafficking but had the unintended consequence of endangering sex workers.

Facebook also had what it describes as "general discussions on data breach" with lawmakers. It's not clear what exactly this refers to. Has Facebook suffered from a data breach and hasn't disclosed it? Is it in reference to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which the company has gone to great lengths to not refer to as a data breach? Was it part of a conversation about new policies for how companies should disclose data breaches? Gizmodo reached out to Facebook for comment but did not receive a response.

The increase in spending on lobbying has been part of a trend for Facebook, which has dumped nearly $39 million into influencing US lawmakers since 2015. It's ramped up its efforts around the world, as well. Business Insider reported earlier this week that Facebook also doubled its lobbying efforts in Europe over the course of 2017.

Calling on Mark Zuckerberg to testify and putting Facebook's business practices on trial have made for great theatre, but it's these types of disclosures that make it clear why those efforts rarely produce results: Senators can appear tough for the audience, and Zuckerberg can slip a couple million dollars in their collective pockets on his way out the door to make sure nothing more comes of it.

[Bloomberg]

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