New Report Reveals Google’s Extensive Financial Support for European Academics and Think Tanks
Google has spent millions to support academic research to benefit its business interests.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 16, 2018
Contact: Daniel Stevens, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.780.5750
WASHINGTON – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog group focused on public accountability, released a new report revealing how Google has paid tens of millions of euros to European academic institutions over the past decade to develop an influential network of friendly European academics who write research papers supporting the tech giant’s business interests.
CfA Executive Director Daniel E. Stevens stated, “Google’s lavish funding of academics and think tanks helps the company exert a subtle and hidden form of influence on European policymakers. As Europe looks to crack down on Google’s excesses, regulators need to be aware that a good deal of the academic research defending the company is written by Google-funded institutions.”
Spanning the length and breadth of Europe, Google-funded think thanks have published hundreds of papers on issues central to the company’s business, from antitrust enforcement to regulation governing privacy, copyright, jobs, and the “right to be forgotten.” Events organized by Google-funded institutions have attracted many of the European policymakers charged with creating and enforcing regulation affecting the company.
Google’s academic influence program in Europe has gone beyond funding existing academic institutions, as it does in the U.S., to helping create entirely new university institutes and think-tanks in the United Kingdom and several other countries including Germany and France. Executives from Google’s lobbying operation have helped conceive research groups and covered most, sometimes all, of their budgets for years after launch. Google policy executives have acted as liaisons to steer their research priorities and public events with policymakers.
In Germany, for example, Google has provided at least €9 million and offered personnel to help set up the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society at Berlin’s Humboldt University. Additionally, Google funded the creation of the Research Alliance for a Digital Europe (Readie), which is managed by the London-based Nesta foundation. Both organizations have hosted events where Google representatives rubbed shoulders with policymakers, even pitching tech firms’ preferred policies to leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Google has created and endowed chairs at higher-learning institutions in European countries such as France, Spain, Belgium, and Poland. These “Google Chairs” have been established at prestigious universities such as HEC Paris and the College of Europe in Brussels. The chairs are often occupied by academics with a track record of producing research that closely aligns with Google’s policy priorities. The College of Europe’s “Google Chair in Digital Innovation,” for example, is currently occupied by Andrea Renda, a researcher at the Google-funded, Belgium-based Centre for European Policy Studies, who has defended Google against antitrust charges by the European Commission.
Google-financed research and Google-funded academics also are intertwined with research commissioned by the European authorities themselves. In one case, Google and the European Commission jointly financed a study by the Lisbon Council for Economic Competitiveness and Social Renewal that included arguments supporting less restrictive copyright and intellectual property rules, which Google favors.
Europe is both a key market for Google, and the most organized and effective source of opposition to Google’s expansion plans. The European Commission is arguably the only regulator beyond the U.S. with sufficient clout to cause Google to change its conduct.
Stevens continued, “While it’s not surprising that Google is spending millions to influence regulators, government officials should have the benefit of fair, neutral, and unbiased research as they chart a path forward in the digital age. It’s a safe bet that’s not what they’re getting from Google-funded academic institutions.”
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.