Why it matters: Members of the European Parliament (MEP) are often the target of covert lobbying campaigns aimed at protecting large tech corporations from competition and the rule of law. Now MEPs will have a new anonymous way to report such shady tactics.
LobbyLeaks is a joint project of a group of MEPs and two non—governmental organizations (NGOs) working to counter shadow lobbying and “astroturfing” tactics aimed at influencing the decision-making process in Europe. Their website is designed to expose the “political influence” of large tech companies and provides a tool to securely leak or denounce suspicious lobbying efforts through end-to-end encryption.
Operated by Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) and LobbyControl, two non-governmental organizations working to ensure transparency of corporate political influence, LobbyLeaks is a digital hotline for MEPs who have witnessed things like undisclosed lobbying methods, suspicious social media posts, targeted online advertising on their personal pages. social networks or lobbyists who falsely claim to work for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
LobbyLeaks provides a secure contact form designed in such a way that it cannot be tracked, it is confidential and independent. Everything that is transmitted through the specified contact form is stripped of personal information or metadata to prevent tracking, the website says. In addition, the transmitted information is handled “confidentially” and handled by the CEO and LobbyControl, who are “completely independent of European political institutions or the industry.”
The LobbyLeaks initiative is clearly aimed at large technology corporations, namely the usual suspects when it comes to shady actions in the high-tech market: Google, Amazon, Meta, Apple and Microsoft. Bram Vranken, the research CEO, clearly stated that “the business model of large technologies is toxic.”
According to Vranken, giant IT corporations are building their business prospects on “aggressive surveillance, advertising and data extraction,” using “algorithmic content management systems” to spread disinformation and hate-mongering content, as well as denying employees their legal rights. LobbyLeaks will help to expose this kind of “deceptive and opaque influence”, which is now the main focus of lobbying tactics of large technology companies.
Shadow technology corporations are mainly based in the United States, although they regularly try to influence new bills concerning the European digital market. In recent months, MEPs have filed complaints with the EU Transparency Registry against Amazon, Google and Facebook’s parent company Meta, who tried to use third-party industry associations or, apparently, representatives of small and medium-sized businesses for their lobbying attempts.
Shady methods of lobbying and astroturfing can undermine the democratic values of accountability and fair process. Deception tactics, of course, are much older than the digital market, but supporters of the LobbyLeaks initiative say that the efforts and money spent by large technology companies on this practice are unprecedented and absolutely harmful to the interests of the European Union.