Report published on use of corporate-funded citizen lobbying in the new digital economy
Research conducted at the SCI by Dr Luke Yates explores how corporations such as Airbnb, Uber, Juul and electric scooter companies increasingly mobilise their users in lobbying policymakers for their preferred regulation.
Based on a report published in March 2021 in collaboration with Manchester-based NGO Ethical Consumer, the study explores the relationship between companies and the political ‘movements’ for deregulation they fund. It shows that techniques used in tobacco, pharmaceutical and fossil fuel industries are becoming repurposed by digital platforms, enabled through their collection of user data.
The case study is Airbnb, who have hired hundreds of community organisers since 2014 to set up over 400 ‘Home Sharing Clubs’ in cities all over the world, in particular where local governments and housing campaigners are concerned about the effects of commercialised short-term lets, which represent a majority of Airbnb listings.
With support and dialogue from groups such as lobbying transparency organisation Corporate Europe Observatory, civil organising NGOs such as Community Organisers, and housing campaigners Acorn, Greater Manchester Tenants Union and Living Rent, the report calls for statutory lobbying registers, increased resources for municipal governments to protect local housing, and a review of the data gathered and held by digital platforms for political purposes.