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Why it matters: Members of the European Parliament (MEP) are often targeted by undisclosed lobbying campaigns conceived to shield big tech corporations from competition and rule of law. Now, MEPs will have a new, anonymous way to report such shady tactics.
LobbyLeaks is a joint effort by a group of MEPs and two non-governmental organizations (NGO) working to oppose shady lobbying and "astroturfing" tactics aimed at influencing the European policymaking process. Their website is designed to unveil the "political clout" of big tech companies, and provides a tool to safely leak or denounce suspicious lobbying efforts through end-to-end encryption.
Managed by Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) and LobbyControl, two NGOs working to promote transparency over corporate political influence, LobbyLeaks is a digital "hotline" for MEPs who witnessed things like undisclosed lobbying practices, suspicious social media messages, online targeted advertising on their personal social media, or lobbyists wrongfully claiming to work for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME).
LobbyLeaks provides a safe contact form designed to be untraceable, confidential, and independent. Anything shared through said contact form is stripped of personal information or metadata to prevent tracking, the website says. Furthermore, information shared is handled "confidentially" and processed by CEO and LobbyControl, which are "completely independent of European political institutions or industry."
The LobbyLeaks initiative expressly targets big tech corporations, namely the usual suspects when it comes to hi-tech market shady practices: Google, Amazon, Meta, Apple, and Microsoft. Bram Vranken, a CEO researcher, clearly stated that "big tech's business model is toxic."
Giant IT corporations are basing their business prospects on "aggressive surveillance advertising and data extraction," Vranken said, exploiting "algorithmic content management systems" to amplify disinformation and hateful content, and denying workers their legit rights. LobbyLeaks will help expose this kind of "deceptive and opaque influence" which is now a major focus for big tech's lobbying tactics.
Shady tech corporations are mostly based in the US, while they are routinely trying to influence new law drafts concerning the European digital market. In recent months, MEPs have filed complaints with the EU's Transparency Register against Amazon, Google, and Facebook's parent company Meta, which were trying to use third party industry associations or seemingly SMEs representatives for their lobbying attempts.
Shady lobbying and astroturfing practices can undermine democratic values for accountability and fair process. Deceiving tactics are of course much older than the digital market, but proponents of the LobbyLeaks initiative say that the efforts and money spent by big tech companies on the practice are unprecedented and absolutely detrimental to European Union's interests.