Buying Votes is Nothing New, But Now the Website We Use the Most Might Also Be Guilty

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It’s no secret that over its history, American politics has often been accused of being easily influenced by lobbying, that insidious form of influence which allows members of an organization to sway votes in Washington by contributing millions of dollars to campaigns and then expecting the favor to be returned in legislation favorable to its industry. Most dictionaries define lobbying as meaning “seek to influence (a politician or public official) on an issue,” but in practice it can become a whole lot more complex. Successful lobbying can mean a virtual moratorium on any unfavorable legislation reaching the House or Senate floor, members of the industry being lobbied for appointment to high-profile positions in presidential administrations, and much more. Industries like tobacco, Wall Street, gambling, and others have famously pulled strings in D.C. for years, and according to a recent report, Google might be the latest to come under fire for appropriating favors from our representatives.

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In a report titled “Google under scrutiny over lobbying influence on Congress and White House,” D.C. reporter for the Guardian David Smith outlines the growing concerns relating to the tech giant’s evolving relationship with politicos, a relationship that comes as little surprise. After all, Google is perhaps the world’s biggest web company and surely the number-one search engine in the game (the company’s founders have often claimed that their business motto is “don’t be evil”). This report deals with the specifics of some statistics that speak directly to Google’s growing influence on politicians, most recently with its political donations to more than 150 members of Congress, the Senate, and other sectors of government. As Smith writes, the “Guardian revealed that Google enlisted American politicians whose election campaigns it had funded to pressure the European Union in a carefully coordinated campaign to drop a €6bn ($6.5bn) antitrust case that threatens its business in Europe,” giving the multi-billion-dollar corporation motive to influence votes. And, while hardly the first time a corporation has had its hands in the pockets of those charged with the legal and just execution of the American political process, for many it’s the first time Google’s name has been brought up so forcefully as a lobbyist.

Smith argues that the reveal of this information has “underlined the close relationship between the company, the US Congress and even the White House, where the chief technology officer is among several ex-Google employees,” leaving little room for doubt of Google’s direct influence in Washington. However, just because a corporation presents a strong lobbying presence doesn’t mean it’s done anything unethical. After all, lobbying is not illegal and can often result in positive effects, such as when environmental groups lobby for greener measures to pass. Nevertheless, lobbying is the slipperiest of slopes, and many are concerned that Google’s already omnipresent force in the way we communicate and use the web will only grow into more of a stranglehold if politicians become beholden to its ever-growing stockpile of cash.

Do you think Google has a right to form its own lobbying measures in government? At which point do you think a line should be drawn?

Read: “Google under scrutiny over lobbying influence on Congress and White House” at the Guardian

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