Facebook and Google reported significant increases in lobbying expenses the first quarter of this year, reflecting rising regulatory scrutiny on both companies.
The social network spent $230,000 for lobbying efforts in Washington in the last quarter, way up from $40,000 for the same period last year, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics.
“This increase represents a continuation of our efforts to explain how our service works as well as the important actions we take to protect people who use our service and promote the value of innovation to our economy,” said Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes.
Facebook’s spending, while a sharp increase from its previous year, is dwarfed by Google’s reported $1.48 million spend for the quarter, a seven percent increase over the same time last year.
Google spent more on Washington lobbying efforts so far this year than in any other quarter since 2005, when the search engine giant opened its lobbying operations.
The two companies are both wary of potential privacy legislation that could crimp their business models, which deal heavily in user data. For example, last week, Senators John Kerry and John McCain introduced The Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights Act which would require companies that traffic in personal data to seek permission before sharing that information.
At that time, analysts noted that some stricter provisions were lessened during the drafting process, when the ideas were shared with members of the industry. This is likely lobbying in action.
Google is facing more pointed regulatory attention. After its controversial $700 million deal to acquire airline fare tracker ITA Software is accepted to rejected, the Federal Trade Commission is reportedly set to launch a massive investigation into whether the company has abused its dominant position in the search market.
Various state attorneys general are also investigating the company for the same reasons. Google is undoubtedly eager to convince suspicious legislators of its innocuousness.
The rising spending by both companies reflects their increasing importance as fundamental Internet players with significant reach into the real world.
Facebook, whose corporate headquarters was the site of a President Barack Obama town hall meeting last week, has also been in the news for taking the hiring defensive political talent. The social media giant, after luring executives from the Department of Justice and former administrations to its team, was recently in talks to secure former Obama Press Secretary Robert Gibbs to its offices.