EU lawmakers back new hotline to report ‘shady lobbying’ by Big Tech

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A cross-party group of European Parliament members on Thursday endorsed a new “hotline” to report inappropriate lobbying activities by Big Tech.

The website will enable MEPs and officials in the European institutions to leave anonymous tips about ”shady lobbying tactics.”

The platform was founded by the German NGO LobbyControl and the Brussels-based campaign group Corporate Europe Observatory, which monitors the influence of interest groups on EU policymaking.

The initiative won the support of four MEPs including the Dutch Social Democrat Paul Tang, French leftist Manon Aubry, Hungarian Liberal Katalin Cseh and German Greens member Daniel Freund, who’s a former campaigner with Transparency International.

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The founders of the platform stressed that they will be the only ones investigating the complaints and political parties and industry wouldn’t play a role in the procedure. The platform also uses encrypted messages to better protect whistleblowers.

“Manipulation by shady lobbying is a threat not only to proper law making, but to our whole democracy,” said Tang in a statement.

A lawmaker active on several EU legislations targeting Big Tech companies, Tang was among a group of MEPs that lodged complaints in October 2022 against Google, Meta and Amazon and associated lobbying groups to the EU’s transparency register for misleading politicians by hiding behind groups claiming to represent small businesses. Most companies and groups denied wrongdoing. The transparency register is still investigating the claims, according to a spokesperson in the European Parliament.

In a statement to POLITICO, Freund said that this tool offers support “when MEPs are being targeted by excessive lobbying [and acts as] an early detection system for lobbying practices that are breaking or overstretching the current framework,” while adding that the EU still needs institutional oversight and an independent enforcement of lobbying rules.

The role of lobbyists in the European Parliament has come under the spotlight during the so-called Qatargate scandal, piling pressure on the institution to strengthen its transparency rules.

According to an early draft proposal, EU Parliament President Roberta Metsola wants to ban MEPs from lobbying for two years after leaving the institution and oblige anyone entering Parliament in Brussels or Strasbourg to declare who they are meeting.