Facebook splashes millions more on lobbying — but CEO still won't face MEPs

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By Sallyann Nicholls
Facebook splashes millions more on lobbying — but CEO still  won't face MEPs
Copyright  REUTERS

Facebook spending on lobbying in Brussels has increased fivefold in recent years, yet CEO Mark Zuckerberg has yet to accept an invitation to face EU lawmakers’ questions following the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Data collected by VoxEurop shows the social network has been working hard to amplify its influence in Europe. Since 2013, Facebook’s lobbying expenditure has soared from around €450,000 to almost €2.4 million in 2017, and by February of this year, the European Commission had recorded 67 meetings with Facebook executives since 2014.

“Facebook has made efforts to become one of the most active lobbying groups within European institutions, following the examples of Microsoft and Google … who are among the 10 biggest spenders in this arena,” reports VoxEurop.

The technology giant’s workforce has also grown in the Belgian capital, from a meagre two in 2012 to 15 last year.

But despite Facebook’s deepening foothold in the Union — there are reports the company has secured office space in one of the most expensive properties in Brussels — its 33-year-old CEO is yet to accept requests from the European Parliament to face MEPs in person.

The snub is likely to be sore one, since Zuckerberg willingly testified before 44 senators in Capitol Hill last week after news that third-parties accessed millions of Facebook users’ data without permission prompted an international outcry.

His refusal to answer questions has not helped his company’s image either.

American public perception of the technology giant has swiftly declined since the scandal broke, according to data gathered by the Ponemon Institute and reported by the Financial Times.

One week after reports emerged that 87 million users' data had been leaked to Cambridge Analytica, only 27% of those asked agreed that Facebook was committed to protecting their privacy.

The results were in stark contrast to last year, when 79% of respondents said they trusted the social network to protect their information. From 2011 until 2017, public trust in the social network had increased year on year.

About 3,000 US-based users of varying ages and incomes were involved in the survey.