American technology giants spent record sums on lobbying in 2018, according to disclosures the companies filed with the Federal Elections Commission on Tuesday.
Google led the pack, spending $21 million—up from $18 million in 2017. The company lobbied on a wide range of issues, including copyright and patent reform, privacy issues, cybersecurity, education, trade, health IT, immigration, workplace diversity, spectrum policy, network neutrality, autonomous vehicles, and tax reform.
Amazon spent $14 million lobbying on many of the same issues, while Facebook spent almost $13 million. Microsoft spent $9.5 million, while Apple spent $6 million.
All that spending has come at a time when technology companies are under siege from both the left and the right. People on the right are suspicious of the left-leaning corporate cultures at most major technology companies, and they’re particularly concerned about how Facebook and Google could use their control over major social media platforms to squelch conservative viewpoints.
Meanwhile, critics on the left have begun raising the alarm about the growing market power of these companies. In 2017, a prominent Google critic was fired from the center-left New America think tank. He went on to create the Open Markets Institute, which has focused on building the case for stricter antitrust enforcement against big technology companies—especially Google and Amazon. That case has also attracted some support on the right, with Republican Josh Hawley getting elected to the US Senate from Missouri while running on a stridently anti-Google platform.
Facebook, of course, has had a string of controversies about privacy, Russian meddling, and the spread of fake news and hate speech.