Google spends tens of millions on think tanks that back its policies

By: Mark Bridge, The Times, March 16, 2018

Google has spent tens of millions of pounds funding think tanks that have published papers supporting its policy interests.

A report seen by The Times examined the financial backing of five institutions in Britain and Europe. The academic groups also stage events that allow Google lobbyists to rub shoulders with ministers and policymakers who might not attend those run under the technology company’s branding.

The report, compiled by a US watchdog, said that Europe was crucial to Google because the European Commission was the only regulator outside America with sufficient clout to cause the company to change its conduct. The commission fined Google €2.4 billion last summer for abuse of market dominance in shopping search results.

Think tanks studied by the Campaign for Accountability (CfA) included the Research Alliance for a Digital Economy (Readie), which is run by a former government quango. The CfA found that “virtually every report Readie publishes appears favourable to Google in some way”. One recent opinion piece claimed that platforms such as Google created “immense value”.

Daniel Stevens, of the CfA, said that Google’s academic network “helps the company exert a subtle and insidious form of influence on the region’s policymakers, which often goes unnoticed by those who are being influenced”.

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