UPDATED: With a lengthy response by Google
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability released a new report, Google Academics Inc., revealing Google’s extensive financial support for academics and policy experts. CfA identified 329 research papers published between 2005 and 2017 on public policy matters of interest to Google that were in some way funded by the company.
CfA Executive Director, Daniel Stevens, said, “Google uses its immense wealth and power to attempt to influence policy makers at every level. At a minimum, regulators should be aware that the allegedly independent legal and academic work on which they rely has been brought to them by Google.”
Google Academics Inc. examines the contours of Google’s academic influence machine. For instance, the report reveals that the number of Google-funded studies spiked during periods when its business model was under threat from regulators and when opportunities arose to push for new regulations on its competitors.
Google-funded studies are published by a wide variety of sources, and often blur the line between academic research and paid advocacy. Reports funded by the company have been authored by academics and economists hailing from some of the nation’s leading law schools and universities, including Stanford, Harvard and MIT, as well as some of the most prestigious universities in Europe, including Oxford, Edinburgh, and the Berlin School of Economics.
Google’s paid-policy research has broad reach and may have influenced policymakers unaware of the company’s role. Google lobbyists and lawyers pushed Google-funded research to journalists, the White House, Congress, and agency regulators investigating its conduct, such as the Federal Trade Commission, often without disclosing that the funding.
Mr. Stevens continued, “What’s good for Google is not necessarily good for the country. Google-funded academics should disclose the source of their funding to ensure their work is evaluated in context and the government makes decisions that benefit all Americans, not just Google employees and stockholders.”
For more information about CfA’s efforts to shine a light on Google, visit the Google Transparency Project at http://googletransparencyproject.org/.
CfA is a non-profit, non-partisan 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.
Google responded with the following statement
Responding to the “Campaign for Accountability” report on academic research
Today the Campaign for Accountability released a report about our funding of academic research. It claims to list hundreds of papers we’ve “in some way funded.” The report is highly misleading. For example, the report attributes to Google any work that was supported by any organization to which we belong or have ever donated (such as CCIA).
Nevertheless, we’re proud to maintain strong relations with academics, universities and research institutes, in our own name, so we wanted to take a few moments to respond to the report.
We run many research programs that provide funding and resources to the external research community. This helps public and private institutions pursue research on important topics in computer science, technology, and a wide range of public policy and legal issues. Our support for the principles underlying an open internet is shared by many academics and institutions who have a long history of undertaking research on these topics—across important areas like copyright, patents, and free expression. We provide support to help them undertake further research, and to raise awareness of their ideas.
These programs (and those run by other companies) augment the government and university-funded research that is the backbone of academic discourse in the United States.
We also run policy fellowship programs. Most other companies do this too; the difference with Google is that we list ours publicly on our policy website.
Our funding is guided by these principles:
- Disclosure requirements: When we provide financial support, we expect and require grantees to properly disclose our funding. If there are ever omissions or unclear disclosures, we work to tighten our requirements.
- Independence: We value academic independence and integrity. We offer grants for discrete pieces of research, not to shape academics’ subsequent scholarship. The researchers and institutions to whom we award research grants will often publish research with which we disagree. In fact, many of the academics listed by the Campaign for Accountability have criticized Google and our policy positions heavily on a variety of topics. Here are just three of the academics on their list, opposing and arguing against us on antitrust, net neutrality and privacy.
The irony of discussing disclosures and transparency with the “Campaign for Accountability” is that this group consistently refuses to name its corporate funders. And those backers won’t ‘fess up either. The one funder the world does know about is Oracle, which is running a well-documented lobbying campaign against us. In its own name and through proxies, Oracle has funded many hundreds of articles, research papers, symposia and reports. Oracle is not alone—you can easily find similar activity by companies and organizations funded by our competitors, like AT&T, the MPAA, ICOMP, FairSearch and dozens more; including hundreds of pieces directly targeting Google.
We’re proud of our programs and their integrity. The “Campaign for Accountability” and its funders are, clearly, not proud of theirs.