Influence, recruitment, financing: the American digital giants have woven in recent years a "web of influence" in France, denounced in a report of around thirty pages published Tuesday by the Observatory of multinationals, an association which campaigns for supervision of lobbying activities.
“The French subsidiaries of Gafam (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft) declared in 2021 the sum of 4.075 million euros in lobbying expenditure in France, against 1.35 million in 2017, i.e. a multiplication by 3” , says the association based on data from the High Authority for the Transparency of Public Life (HATVP).
The association's mission is to shed light on the relationship between major economic players and political power.
Read alsoGafam regulation: 5 minutes to understand the historical scope of the Digital Markets Act
Google is the biggest spender, with more than 1.6 million euros, ahead of Microsoft (1.1 million) and Amazon (850,000 euros).
The five companies “also declared a total of 72 lobbying activities (meetings with public decision-makers, telephone exchanges, etc.) in 2021, compared to 15 in 2017″, an order of magnitude that places them “at the same level as the most assets of CAC40 groups in terms of lobbying in France”.
Recruit senior officials
Another practice reported by the Observatory: “revolving doors”, which consist for the digital giants “in recruiting staff who have passed through the public sector”.
Among a host of names, the association cites, for example, Yohann Bénard, European public affairs director for Amazon France, who worked for Bercy and Matignon, or Sébastien Gros, government affairs director for Apple and "close collaborator" of the former Prime Minister Manuel Valls.
“The most emblematic case is however that of Benoît Loutrel, director of institutional relations and public policies at Google France from 2018 to 2020, who is the former director general of the regulatory authority Arcep”, regrets the Observatory.
The influence of the digital giants also passes through their financial links with the media or think tanks, points out the association, which takes in particular the example of the Institut Montaigne, financially supported by Google, Amazon and Microsoft, or contracts concluded by Google with the French press (AFP also has an agreement with Google, editor's note).
"In its decision-making relating to the digital sector, the State often only has limited expertise" and would therefore be forced to rely on digital "industrialists", which the Observatory describes as "passive lobbying ".
In conclusion, the association calls on public authorities to “strengthen their digital expertise, genuinely support alternatives to Gafam and promote the rise of civil society on these subjects”.