TTP Report: Google’s Influence Campaign Ahead of Pivotal SCOTUS Case
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 17, 2023
Contact: Michael Clauw, email@example.com, 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 how Google has activated its Washington influence machine to build support for its legal arguments and rally public opinion ahead of a Supreme Court case that could radically curtail its business model. TTP review’s found that 44 parties that signed amicus briefs in support of Google’s position in Gonzalez vs. Google are funded by or linked to the company. The list includes Google-funded allies such as Chamber of Progress and the Computer & Communications Industry Association—as well as a slew of YouTube influencers and a number of organizations tied to the Koch network, which often makes common cause with Google.
Campaign for Accountability Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith said, “Google and other immensely profitable monopolies know that they can garner very little public sympathy on their own for their legal woes, so they recruit these armies of smaller voices to make their case. While some of the faces flocking to Google’s defense in this case are new, the playbook is entirely familiar.”
In Google vs. Gonzalez, SCOTUS will consider a lawsuit brought by the family of an American woman killed in an Islamic State attack in Paris, arguing that Google-owned YouTube’s amplification of ISIS content through recommendation algorithms is not covered by Section 230—a two-decade-old law that shields Google and other tech platforms from liability over user-generated content. Google, of course, would like this immunity preserved.
Many of Google’s reliable proxies have filed briefs defending the status quo on 230, including Chamber of Progress (a tech industry coalition that is backed by Google), the Google-funded Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), and Engine, a non-profit that claims to be a voice for tech startups but appears to be little more than a front for Google.
Google’s backers in the Gonzalez case also include a group of 17 social media content creators and influencers—most of them YouTubers—who signed onto a brief from the Authors Alliance backing Google’s position. While the Author’s Alliance itself has a history of jumping to Google’s defense, the direct support from influencers is notable. TTP’s report documents how a number of the YouTube influencers signing onto the brief have published videos in the past that were sponsored by Google.
TTP’s report also highlights an array of organizations tied to the Koch network that signed amicus briefs supporting Google’s position in the case. While Google was once regarded as a beacon of progressivism, TTP has previously reported on how its ties to the right-wing Koch network have grown increasingly strong in recent years. In fact, many of the groups siding with Google in the Supreme Court case are funded both by the company and Koch money.
Ms. Kuppersmith continued, “Google is clearly willing to cross any ideological lines if it feels like doing so will help it maintain its business model. The fact that Google seems to welcome these bedfellows shows just how alarmed the company is at the threat this case may pose to that status quo.”
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.