The Silicon Valley dream of innovation has begun to sour. Algorithms amplifying disinformation, exacerbating the exploitation of workers and entrenching racial bias are among the concerns that have prompted governments to start work on regulation that catches up with the impacts of digital technology. Their efforts have the potential to provide a welcome dose of democratic control over the technologies that are rapidly reshaping people’s lives and our societies more widely.

But civil society organisations face an uphill battle to make sure the new measures are not hollowed out by corporate interests. And philanthropy needs to get behind them.

The European Union is widely regarded as leading attempts to rein in tech giants. Last year it passed landmark regulation on platform accountability and it’s currently negotiating a legal framework for Artificial Intelligence. Tech CEOs who previously wanted to move fast and break things profess to welcome regulation now that the pressure’s on. But the numbers tell a different story.

The tech industry now outspends the energy and finance sectors and is the biggest lobbyist in Brussels, the home of the EU’s decision-makers. It forks out €97 million annually, with Apple, Google, Meta (Facebook) and Microsoft comprising four of the EU’s five highest-spending registered lobbyists. This small change for companies whose value is measured in trillions. But money is only part of it. Three-quarters of the staff advocating for big tech had previously held jobs inside the EU institutions. Now the EU is trying to entice recently laid-off tech workers to come and help them implement the new rules they’ve just written. The revolving door swings fast in Brussels.

Read the full article about philanthropy and tech companies by Catherine Miller at Alliance Magazine.