Revealed: Facebook’s global lobbying against data privacy laws

In an internal Facebook document, the company said it faced an ‘uphill battle’ against ‘overly prescriptive new laws’. Photograph: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

Social network targeted legislators around the world, promising or threatening to withhold investment

Facebook has targeted politicians around the world – including the former UK chancellor, George Osborne – promising investments and incentives while seeking to pressure them into lobbying on Facebook’s behalf against data privacy legislation, an explosive new leak of internal Facebookdocuments has revealed.

The documents, which have been seen by the Observer and Computer Weekly, reveal a secretive global lobbying operation targeting hundreds of legislators and regulators in an attempt to procure influence across the world, including in the UK, US, Canada, India, Vietnam, Argentina, Brazil, Malaysia and all 28 states of the EU. The documents include details of how Facebook:

• Lobbied politicians across Europe in a strategic operation to head off “overly restrictive” GDPR legislation. They include extraordinary claims that the Irish prime minister said his country could exercise significant influence as president of the EU, promoting Facebook’s interests even though technically it was supposed to remain neutral.

• Used chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg’s feminist memoir Lean In to “bond” with female European commissioners it viewed as hostile.

• Threatened to withhold investment from countries unless they supported or passed Facebook-friendly laws.

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