CfA Releases Database of Google’s 1,327 Grants to Media Organizations, Totaling More than Half a Billion Dollars
Google’s Media Giving Tracks Regulatory Threats, Analysis Shows
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 9, 2019
Contact: Bryan Dewan, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.780.5750
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a nonprofit watchdog group that runs the Google Transparency Project, released a new report, Google’s Media Takeover, which documents how Google contributed more than half a billion dollars to news and media organizations around the world. In conjunction with the report, CfA also released a comprehensive database that contains information about each of the 1,327 grants Google gave to journalism initiatives. CfA’s report and database represent the most comprehensive effort to catalogue all of Google’s payments to media organizations.
CfA Executive Director Daniel E. Stevens said, “Google destroyed the news industry’s business model by taking over online advertising and aggregating publishers’ content. Google is now capitalizing on its dominance, buying its way into news organizations in what appears to be a highly coordinated influence campaign designed to fend off government regulation and deter serious criticism of Google’s business practices.”
Google claims its support for media projects is altruistic, but the new analysis suggests that the company’s media funding is designed, at least in part, to advance Google’s policy goals. The new CfA review shows that Google’s media funding has largely tracked the legal and regulatory threats the company has faced, first in Europe and, more recently, in the United States, where public officials have become increasingly skeptical of dominant technology platforms.
CfA’s analysis shows that Google and its related entities committed between $567 million and $569 million to support at least 1,157 media projects around the globe between 2007 to 2019. This includes grants from 16 different Google entities, such as Google.org and Google Germany, as well as the family foundations of one of Google’s founders, Sergey Brin, and Eric Schmidt, the former Google chairman. The database also contains information about another 170 projects for which the amount of the award was not available.
Google’s media grants were awarded to a wide variety of recipients, including mainstream media companies, trade organizations, digital start-ups, and investigative reporting outfits. For instance, the largest recipient of Google funding in the database was the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford, which received at least £5.5 million between 2013 and 2018. Google’s media payments financed many different kinds of projects, including the development of personalized newsfeeds, data journalism endeavors, online subscription systems, and virtual reality initiatives. Google also sponsored fellowships, journalism conferences, and professional development training. In some cases, Google funded initiatives that explored how to replace reporters with bots and artificial intelligence.
As part of its review, CfA contacted the recipients of Google’s funding, many of whom reported a positive experience with the company. Others, however, expressed growing alarm about Google’s impact on the media ecosystem.
One recipient wrote, “I fear for the future of free press in Europe and I think Google’s efforts to help journalists at the same time do not make up for the revenue loss… the company as a whole IMO has not had a positive impact on journalists.”
Mr. Stevens continued, “Google’s media giving is a serious threat to free and independent journalism. If news outlets have to rely on Google’s funding to stay afloat, editors and reporters might hesitate before publishing pieces critical of the company. Google is one of the most powerful companies in the world, and journalists must be free to investigate Google and hold the company accountable.”
Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.