Looks Like Google Bought Favorable Research To Lobby With

By: Adam Rogers, Wired, July 12, 2017

Officially, the online search giant Google’s mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” According to two new reports—one from the Wall Street Journal and one from the nonprofit, nonpartisan Campaign for Accountability’s Google Transparency Project, the company doesn’t just organize. When Google wishes it had information that’d maybe help further its policy and regulatory goals, it just pays academics under the table to gin it up.

That’s pretty evil, y’all.

The assertions in both—the Journal reporters had access to an early draft of the Google Transparency Project’s report and did even more reporting—are astounding. The Journalarticle contends that Google financed hundreds of papers at anywhere from $5,000 to $400,000 a pop, even at times participating in the editing process. And the researchers they worked with often didn’t disclose the relationship.

Guys. Guys. Do computer science departments not mention the thing about not subverting academic freedom with bribes in an attempt to influence legal and regulatory frameworks?

Oh, but you’re all like, “come on, don’t be so uptight! Google funds research! It’s practically an R&D institution. Machine-learning cars that search their own balloon-powered books database at gmail dot com!”

The Google Transparency Project says no. The papers Google funded expressly supported the business, covering “a wide range of policy and legal issues of critical importance to Google’s bottom line, including antitrust, privacy, net neutrality, search neutrality, patents and copyright.”

When European and US regulators started looking hard at Google for potential antitrust violations between 2011 and 2013, the number of Google-funded papers with titles like “Google? A Monopoly? Don’t Make Me, a Credentialed Academic, Laugh” spiked. The same thing happened again in 2015. In 2013, when regulators and media companies wanted to know if Google could be held responsible for linking to pirated materials, it was all papers like “Just Because You Found Something Copyrighted on Google, That’s Just, Like, Your Opinion, Man.” OK, I made those specific titles up, but still.

Then those articles and papers themselves got linked or referenced elsewhere, further muddying the trail of money, and those entire networks of pseudo-knowledge became fodder to lobby regulators and elected officials.

You know what company is very, very good at understanding network effects?

“Google is a company with a tremendous amount of power and wealth,” says Dan Stevens, executive director of the Campaign for Accountability. “They really try to leverage that to get what they want from policymakers.” At one point, says his organization’s report, Google CEO Eric Schmidt even cited to Congress a paper saying his company wasn’t a monopoly—without disclosing that Google had paid for the paper.

Read the rest of the article here.