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Google outspends tech rivals on Washington lobbying in 2017

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[WASHINGTON] Alphabet Inc's Google outspent its tech rivals in lobbying in 2017, as Facebook Inc, Amazon.com Inc and Apple Inc set company records for the year, federal disclosures show.

The bonanza for tech and telecom lobbying came as both sectors faced tough scrutiny in Washington, and a wide variety of industries sought to capitalize on a tax overhaul and regulatory rollback in President Donald Trump's first year in office.

Google spent more than US$18 million in 2017, and Facebook spent more than US$11.5 million, as lawmakers scrutinized the companies over questions including Russia's use of their platforms to try to influence the 2016 election, the disclosures show.

The two companies, along with Twitter, have acknowledged that millions of their users were exposed to ads, fake news reports and fraudulent social media posts from Russian operatives.

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The three companies sent executives to testify before Congress at the end of October on Russian activities on its platform. They have pledged to improve their content screening techniques before the 2018 midterm elections.

During the fourth quarter, Google also beat out all other companies, spending more than US$4.6 million, although some trade groups and think tanks spent significantly more during the period. Overall, the search giant's annual expenditures represented a record for the company when subsidiaries are excluded. It also lobbied on a bill that attempts to curb online sex trafficking, and it opposed the Federal Communications Commission's rescinding of open internet rules.

Lobbying in support of the FCC's move, Comcast was the second biggest spender among single companies in the fourth quarter, putting down more than US$4.3 million. AT&T Inc, which also supported FCC's decision even as it battled for its proposed merger with Time Warner Inc. and fought for Trump's tax bill, spent more than US$3.6 million.

Amazon spent nearly US$13 million during the year, including more than US$3.3 million in the fourth quarter. The company has faced some different pressures than the platform companies, but its size has worried some outside groupsĀ even as it works on legislation around the taxation of goods sold online, government procurement and regulations of drones for delivery. Mr Trump has also criticized the company because its founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, owns the Washington Post.

Tech companies also lobbied heavily on immigration and taxes. Apple spent more than US$7 million during the year. The company announced earlier this month it would bring hundreds of billions of dollars currently stored overseas back to the US, where it will pay about US$38 billion in taxes and spend more on domestic jobs and offices.

The announcement prompted Mr Trump to tweet that the Republican-backed tax-reform law was the incentive for Apple's investments.

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