Political Backlash Grows Over Google's Pressure To Censor “Independent” Think Tank
It was only a matter of time until this happened…
For years now, the politicos of the Left have embraced a perfectly symbiotic relationship with the ‘progressive’ leaders of Silicon Valley. Tech titans, like Google’s Eric Schmidt who got very cozy with the Hillary Clinton campaign, have poured million of dollars of their tech fortunes into Democratic coffers all while colluding with elected officials, “independent” think tanks and “institutions of higher indoctrination” to ram their progressive agenda down the throats of the American public.
It was a great relationship for Democrats because Silicon Valley’s elites had all the money of Wall Street without the negative stigma…until now.
Google’s recent problems with censorship, which came first in the firing of James Damore and was quickly followed up by the firing of an “independent” research team at a think tank funded by Google, has exposed what many have known for some time but others were too enamored to see, namely that Silicon Valley companies like Google are every bit as motivated by their relentless pursuit of power and wealth as Wall Street…they’re just better at wrapping their motivations in a nice progressive bow.
Unfortunately, the cat is now out of the bag and it has forced a growing number of the Left’s most progressive politicians to distance themselves from America’s new breed of “evil corporations.” As The Hill notes this morning, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Keith Ellison have already started to distance themselves:
Google is facing blowback after one of its most prominent critics was fired from a think tank funded by the tech giant.
The incident is raising new questions about Google’s influence over think tanks and academic research.
The controversy has caught the attention of lawmakers, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) calling the firing “troubling” and warning academic institutions not to compromise their work for financial backers.
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) also tweeted his support for the researchers pushed out of the think tank.
Open Markets does terrific work on monopoly power and inequality. Excited for their new chapter!https://t.co/5nTuUjjchK
— Rep. Keith Ellison (@keithellison) August 31, 2017
Of course, as we pointed out last week, this latest backlash against Google comes after Barry Lynn, formerly a top researcher at New America, was fired after publishing a paper praising European Union antitrust regulators for fining Google nearly $3 billion for purportedly rigging its search algorithm to favor its own services over its rivals.
According to the New York Times, the New America Foundation has received more than $21 million in funding from Google, Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt and his family’s foundation since the think tank was first established in 1999. The money helped establish New America as an “elite voice” in policy debates on the American left.
“But not long after one of New America’s scholars posted a statement on the think tank’s website praising the European Union’s penalty against Google, Mr. Schmidt, who had been chairman of New America until 2016, communicated his displeasure with the statement to the group’s president, Anne-Marie Slaughter, according to the scholar.”
Slaughter, a close ally of the Clintons who’s best known for her 2012 Atlantic Cover Story “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” quickly caved.
The statement disappeared from new America’s website, only to be reposted without explanation a few hours later. But word of Mr. Schmidt’s displeasure quickly rippled through New America, which employs more than 200 people, including dozens of researchers, writers and scholars, most of whom work in sleek Washington officers where the main conference room is called the “Eric Schmidt Ideas Lab. The episode left some people concerned that Google intended to discontinue funding, while others worried whether the think tank could truly be independent if it had to worry about offending its donors.”
Not surprisingly, Google has somehow managed to continue arguing with a straight face that they fund “independent research” with “undue influence.” Of course, as Matt Bruenig, a former researcher at the liberal think tank Demos points out, “undue influence” isn’t actually required if their is an implicit understanding with donors that results in “self-censorship.”
Google insists they fund think tanks independent of their corporate interests.
“We support hundreds of organizations that promote a free and open Internet, greater access to information, and increased opportunity,” Google spokesperson Riva Sciuto said in an emailed statement to The Hill.
“We don’t agree with every group 100% of the time, and while we sometimes respectfully disagree, we respect each group’s independence, personnel decisions, and policy perspectives.”
Google is not alone in the tech industry or in American business. Corporations pump large amounts of money into various research groups across different fields. Like Google, they say the research is conducted without undue influence.
Critics remain skeptical.
“Google spends a lot but says it’s not to influence research, which makes you think they waste a lot of money funding groups,” says Stoller.
“The influence operates on a self censorship level,” says Matt Bruenig a former researcher at the liberal think tank Demos, and founder at the People’s Policy Project, a crowdfunded think tank.
“If you’re an employee you understand the contours of what you should be writing, what you shouldn’t be writing based on what the donors are doing.”
Meanwhile, for anyone who has been paying attention, Yelp’s VP of public policy summed up the recent Google controversies the best:
“I’ve been working on Google antitrust for 6 years. This is both the most shocking & least surprising thing I’ve read.”