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Google became largest corporate lobbyist in Washington in 2017, records reveal

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Search giant Google has become the single largest company lobbying on Capitol Hill, having spent more than $18m (£12.7m) on its lobbying efforts in 2017, according to disclosures recorded in the Senate Office of Public Records.

This total was spent on lobbying various arms of government: the White House, Congress and federal agencies. Google focused its efforts on immigration, tax reform, antitrust legislation, self-driving cars and the regulation of online advertising.

In particular, the company worked hard to influence a bipartisan bill - the Honest Ads Act - which proposes to limit foreign influence on US elections by requiring internet companies to disclose all political adverts hosted on their platforms, and any information associated with them, such as the target audience. This proposed regulation has been criticised by Facebook and Google as too restrictive; both companies favour self-regulation.

The company threw their efforts behind reviving Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program protecting the rights of migrants smuggled into the US as children, which could come to an end in March 2018. This could lead to the deportation of hundreds of thousands of unauthorised migrants as their protected status expires. According to information provided by a group of tech companies lobbing for DACA, 72 per cent of top Fortune 500 companies employ migrants protected by the act.

Tech companies also united in 2017 to oppose the Federal Communication Commission’s repeal of the Obama administration’s net neutrality regulations, which required internet service providers to treat all content online equally.

Despite fighting much of the legislation introduced over the past year, Google invested in backing President Trump’s controversial tax reform bill, which will significantly lower corporate taxes across the US.

Google increased its overall spending on lobbying in Washington by 17 per cent on 2016. Other tech giants – Facebook, Amazon and Apple – also topped their lobbying spending records in 2017. Facebook spent 32 per cent more in 2017 than in 2016, Apple 51 per cent more and Amazon – which faced questions over its $13.7bn (£9.6bn) acquisition of supermarket chain Whole Foods Market – 16 per cent more.

Together, these four companies spent approximately $50m (£35m) on lobbying in Washington.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, which has tracked lobbying spending since 1998, 2017 was the first year that a technology company has outspent all other companies. Typically, corporate lobbying spending has been dominated by energy, defence and telecommunications companies.

Google – along with other internet companies – has faced scrutiny on Capitol Hill over its role in providing a platform for misinformation, hate speech and other violent or abusive material. In November, representatives from Google, Facebook and Twitter were called to give evidence in a Congressional investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

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