The world’s biggest technology companies are hiring armies of lobbyists to influence UK Government policy, it has been revealed.
Between them, Amazon, Facebook and Google employ 50 people whose job it is to influence policy.
Together, the three tech giants have doubled their number of UK policy specialists in the past two years. Roughly half of them work for Facebook, which recently named former Liberal Democrats leader, Nick Clegg, as its head of global affairs.
Facebook is currently advertising for an additional five UK-based lobby roles. Responsibilities of successful candidates will include working with policymakers on tech policy and shaping agendas ‘inside and outside government’.
The tech giants are thought to be preparing for a raft of more robust regulations being introduced throughout Europe.
Clegg’s new role is seen by political commentators as one of the most senior lobbying roles within Facebook, although he has rejected this idea.
He said: “There are a whole series of issues, which are of course of commercial significance to companies like Facebook but actually of wider significance to the sector as a whole and, I would argue, to society as a whole.”
Clegg said he had spoken to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg a number of times over the summer and autumn and was “very struck” by their recognition that the company now carries wider responsibilities, not just to the users of its products, but also to society as a whole.
He said he hopes to be able to play a helpful role in navigating that journey, and explained he was keen to take up the opportunity “to get into the boiler room of Silicon Valley.”
He said: “Whether one welcomes or fears advent of the data-driven technological revolution upon us these questions can’t be ducked. They need to be grappled with, not just by Facebook on its own – but it obviously has to take responsibility for its decisions – but working with governments, regulators, with civic society around the world.”
Politicians and technologists too often talk past each other, ignore each other, shout at each other, he added. “In the long run, you can’t just wish away technology,” he explained.
Clegg has apparently not been Facebook’s biggest fan to date. Back in 2016, in an Evening Standard opinion piece, he wrote: “I’m not especially bedazzled by Facebook. While I have good friends who work at the company, I actually find the messianic Californian new-worldy, touchy-feely culture of Facebook a little grating.”