TTP Report: Google Targeting the Left with Stealthy Influence Campaign
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 28, 2022
Contact: Michael Clauw, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.780.5750
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a nonprofit watchdog group that runs the Tech Transparency Project (TTP), released a report outlining Google’s quiet efforts to build a network of progressives to advance the company’s tech policy agenda with arguments framed in the language of racial and social justice. The initiative, called Next Gen Policy Leaders, operates largely under the radar, but internal documents obtained by TTP appear to show the company boasting about program participants taking meetings with lawmakers and other influential policy figures. TTP’s investigation also uncovered numerous examples of Next Gen members speaking or writing about policy issues relevant to Google’s bottom line without disclosing their ties to the company.
Campaign for Accountability Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith said, “With Next Gen, Google appears to have found a convenient way to promote anti-regulatory policy from the left. By framing impending tech regulations as potential impediments for future progressive movements, the company can have its cake and eat it too–appearing outwardly supportive of social progress while preserving its favorable regulatory status quo.”
According to a document distributed for a June 2021 event, Next Gen is comprised of more than 80 participants, all people of color, working in the fields of policy, communications, law, and progressive activism. The event invitation describes the program’s goal as “aligning tech policy issues of concern with concerns for communities of color,” and gives talking points to defend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act—a top Google priority.
One internal presentation on Next Gen boasted of its widespread influence, signaling Google’s interest in tracking occasions when the program’s participants published written works on tech policy, met with congressional offices and policymakers, and made media appearances.
Ms. Kuppersmith continued, “Google’s Next Gen program is yet another example of Big Tech using seemingly unaffiliated voices to further its own cause. As Google and its Big Tech friends fight encroaching regulation, they are pulling out all the stops to make sure they win. Legislators and the media must be hyper aware of who is making the case against regulations and why.”
TTP’s report also looked at a more subtle aspect of Next Gen’s influence: It documents the fact that Next Gen members were almost completely silent on Google’s high-profile firing of AI expert Timnit Gebru, despite the event’s relevance to diversity in tech, a key focus for many Next Gen members. TTP counted only two Next Gen members publicly voicing support for Gebru, while a widely disseminated open letter condemning Google for dismissing her gained thousands of signatures.
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.