In September of 2011, Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt testified before Congress that Google was not manipulating search results to favor its own shopping service (it was). Schmidt also denied allegations that the company was a monopoly, citing a research paper written by David Balto, former policy director of the Federal Trade Commission. What Schmidt neglected to tell the Senate Judiciary antitrust committee was that Google had funded that research paper.
And that’s not the only one, according to a recently published report by the non-profit, non-partisan watchdog organization, the Google Transparency Project, which 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.”
What’s more, the academic research funded by Google covered “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.”
GTP’s report reveals a shocking list of sources that Google paid off. They include:
“[A]cademics, think-tanks, law firms, and economic consultants from some of the leading law schools and universities in the country, including Stanford, Harvard, MIT, University of California Berkeley, UCLA, Rutgers, Georgetown, Northwestern Law School, and Columbia.”
Internationally, GTP reports, “Google-funded studies were written by academics at some of the most prestigious universities in Europe, including Oxford (U.K.), Edinburgh University (U.K.), Berlin School of Economics (Germany), Heinrich Heine University (Germany), and KU Leuven (Belgium).”
The Wall Street Journal took their research a bit further, and what they discovered is astounding. WSJ reported:
“Some researchers share their papers before publication and let Google give suggestions, according to thousands of pages of emails obtained by the Journal in public-records requests of more than a dozen university professors. The professors don’t always reveal Google’s backing in their research, and few disclosed the financial ties in subsequent articles on the same or similar topics, the Journal found.”
University of Illinois law professor Paul Heald neglected to disclose the $18,830 he receivedfrom Google to fund “an idea on copyrights he thought would be useful to Google.” When he was questioned in an interview about his failure to mention his sponsor, Heald replied, “Oh, wow. No, I didn’t. That’s really bad. That’s purely oversight.” The professor also claims the money had no influence on his work.
Google has paid anywhere between $5,000 and $40,000 per paper, and the number of studies surged the highest in 2012 when the company was being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission and European regulators for antitrust violations. At least 50 studies on antitrust issues authored between 2011 and 2013 were bought and paid for by Google.
According to a former employee and a former Google lobbyist, Google officials in Washington compiled wish lists of academic papers and then searched for willing authors to complete the desired work. Google often provided working titles, abstracts, and budgets for each proposed paper. Upon completion, they were pitched to government officials. The former lobbyist told the Journal that Google would “sometimes pay travel expenses for professors to meet with congressional aides and administration officials.”
Google’s massive influence on academic research should come as no surprise given the former CEO’s openness in discussing the company’s hand in writing legislation. At the Washington Ideas Forum, Schmidt described his experience working with the U.S. government, revealing that “The average American doesn’t realize how much of the laws are written by lobbyists…and it’s shocking, now, having spent a fair amount of time in the system – how the system actually works.”
Shocking is an understatement. It’s absolutely terrifying how the system works. A multi-billion dollar company with a monopoly on the internet not only writes the laws, but funds academic studies to shield them from further laws that might prevent them from becoming even more dangerous, all while harvesting private data from over a billion people and developing AI technology that allows two neural networks to communicate using inhuman cryptographic language indecipherable to humans.
And the executive chairman of this disturbingly powerful corporation is a man who has stated that Google’s famous “Don’t be evil” slogan was “the stupidest rule ever.” This is the same man who told an audience in Washington, D.C., that “We don’t need you to type. We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about.”
What could go wrong?