Google is seeking to hire a network of lobbyists in capitals across Europe as it tries to shape debate over pressing internet policy issues, from copyright to online privacy.

Google this month advertised for recruits in at least 10 capitals with a passion for “the expansion of a free and open internet”.

The network will work on issues such as “privacy, freedom of expression, copyrights, competition and security, regulation of online content, advertising and technology”.

The recruitment drive was not in reaction to criticisms, but simply reflected Google’s rapid growth, said Rachel Whetstone, head of Google’s European communications.

It mirrors an earlier venture a year ago, when it hired some of Washington’s best-known lobbyists.

Google’s rush to try to shape the policy discussion internationally reflects the speed with which its rapid growth has put it at the centre of a number of controversial online issues, though many feel that the company has been slow to act.

“The technology they have got is beginning to pinch in a lot of places,” said one rival Brussels-based internet lobbyist who declined to be named. “They thought that they could sit on the west coast [of the US] being techie and not deal with all the politics. Then they realised government has a responsibility to determine the public interest and if you are not talking to them, others are.”

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