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Tech spends millions lobbying as Washington pressure rises

[WASHINGTON] Technology companies including Facebook and Amazon.com spent more than US$10 million on federal lobbying in the third quarter, as Washington ratcheted up pressure on issues ranging from child sex-trafficking to Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 election.

Amazon spent US$3.41 million - its biggest quarter in at least nine years - on tax policy, cloud security and computing, and others, according to lobbying disclosures posted Friday for the three months ending Sept 30. Facebook spent US$2.85 million, while Alphabet's Google paid out US$4.17 million. Twitter spent US$120,000.

Some Silicon Valley companies are facing fresh scrutiny over how Russian state actors used social networks and online platforms to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election. Facebook, Twitter and Google will send their top lawyers to Washington to testify in front of congressional committees on Nov 1. 

On Thursday, three senators also introduced a bipartisan plan to impose new disclosure requirements for political ads online. 

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For Google, the new concerns around political advertising come as it responds to European antitrust charges and tries to preserve online platforms' liability protections under a 1996 law.

A Senate bill aimed at stopping online sex trafficking has drawn opposition from Google, Facebook and other internet companies because it weakens those protections.

On Wednesday, Alphabet said it hired a lobbying firm for its X subsidiary, the home of ambitious, risky projects like its drone program and balloon-internet effort. During the quarter, X spent US$20,000 with lobbying firm Kountoupes Denham Carr & Reid LLC, a later filing said.

The firm, which also represents Intel Corp., will focus on "situational analysis of policies relevant to X," and work in the domains of science, technology and aviation, the filing said.

Qualcomm spent US$2.2 million in the third quarter, up from US$1.29 million a year earlier, according to its disclosure on Friday. The chipmaker said it lobbied the White House and the office of Vice President Mike Pence on issues including intellectual property and antitrust matters. The company has been hit by antitrust fines and investigations from multiple authorities around the world.

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