Facebook spent $4 million to lobby U.S. lawmakers in 2012

The social network is spending millions to advance a pro-Facebook agenda in the nation's capital. Cue the cynicism.

Facebook wined and dined U.S. lawmakers and racked up a tab close to $4 million during 2012, an increase of 196 percent over its courting costs in the previous year.

According to disclosure forms, Facebook spent $1.4 million in the fourth quarter to lobby government officials on foreign relations matters, online privacy issues, data security, immigration reform, and online advertising.

The fourth-quarter lobby spend is Facebook's first $1 million-plus quarter; the $1.4 million figure is just $200,000 less than the company's combined lobbying costs for the first and second quarters of 2012. The bigger-by-the-month spending trend is sure to continue as the company pushes to expand its user base to kids under the age of 13, experiments with facial recognition technology, and gets more aggressive with its online and mobile advertising tactics.

"Our presence and growth in Washington reflect our commitment to explaining how our service works, the actions we take to protect the billion plus people who use our service, the importance of preserving an open Internet, and the value of innovation to our economy," a Facebook representative told CNET.

The more cynical view, of course, is that Facebook is buying its way to favorable laws that will allow it to do more with more member data. Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit organization that exposes political injustice, holds this more extreme perspective.

"Google and Facebook would have you believe that they are different from other corporations. They are not. They are following the corrupt corporate tradition in Washington: buying what you want," the organization's privacy project director, John M. Simpson, said in a statement.

Simpson's right about one thing: tech companies are spending exorbitant sums to advance their agendas in Washington. In 2012, Google spent $16.48 million and Microsoft spent $8.09 million to lobby U.S. lawmakers.

About the author

Jennifer Van Grove covers the social beat for CNET. She loves Boo the dog, CrossFit, and eating vegan. Her jokes are often in poor taste, but her articles are not.

 

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