Accurate, Focused Research on Law, Technology and Knowledge Discovery Since 2002

Report Documents Google’s Academic Influence in Europe

From the Campaign for Accountability Report: “Over the past decade, Google has invested heavily in European academic institutions to develop an influential network of friendly academics, paying tens of millions of euros to think tanks, universities and professors that write research papers supporting its business interests. Those academics and institutions span the length and breadth of Europe, from countries with major influence in European Union policymaking, such as Germany and France, to Eastern European nations like Poland. Google-funded institutions have published hundreds of papers on issues central to the company’s business, from antitrust enforcement to regulation governing privacy, copyright and the “right to be forgotten.” Events organized by Google-funded institutions have attracted many of the European policymakers charged with creating and enforcing regulation affecting the company. Google’s European program appears to be modeled on its extensive academic “AstroTurf” campaign in the United States, which CfA detailed in a July 2017 report, Google Academics Inc, and which was detailed in various press reports. However, new research has identified several significant differences in its European program. Taken together, they raise new questions about whether the European Commission has adequate procedures in place to prevent policymakers from being unwittingly influenced by Google’s proxies. First, Google’s academic influence program in Europe has gone beyond funding existing academic institutions, as it does in the United States, to helping create entirely new institutes and think-tanks in key countries like Germany, France and the United Kingdom. In those countries, executives from Google’s lobbying operation have helped conceive research groups and covered most, or all, of their budgets for years after launch. Google policy executives have acted as liaisons to steer their research priorities and host public events with policymakers. For example, Google has paid at least €9 million to help set up the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) at Berlin’s Humboldt University. The new group launched in 2011, after German policymakers voiced growing concerns over Google’s accumulated power.The Institute has so far published more than 240 scholarly papers and reports on internet policy issues, many on issues of central importance to Google’s bottom line. HIIG also runs a Google-funded journal, with which several Google-funded scholars are affiliated, to publish such research. The Institute’s reach extends beyond Germany, or even Europe. HIIG previously managed, and still participates, in a global Network of Internet and Society Research Centers to coordinate internet policy scholarship. Many are in emerging markets where Google is trying to expand its footprint, such as India and Brazil. Google also helped establish and fund other similar bodies designed to influence public policies in other key European nations. In the United Kingdom, the company has funded the Research Alliance for a Digital Economy (Readie), which has hosted several policy conferences with European Commission officials and published dozens of articles and publications on policy issues important to Google. In France, Google helped launch Net:Lab, a similar group that was set up to “provide an open platform for debate involving experts, policymakers and users” and “make concrete proposals to advance the societal, legal, academic and political debate” on technology issues.” And in Poland, Google has funded the Digital Economy Lab (DELab) at the University of Warsaw, similarly described as an interdisciplinary institute that will research and design policies governing technology issues. Second, Google has created and endowed chairs at higher-learning institutions in European countries including France, Spain, Belgium, and Poland. Those chairs have often been occupied by academics with a track record of producing research that closely aligns with Google’s policy priorities…”

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.