Last week, an advocacy group called Campaign for Accountability (CfA) released a list of academics and policy experts who had received funding from Google in the last few years. That created quite a stir, especially because many of the scholars on the list didn’t think they should have been included in this list in the first place — often because the funding they received from Google wasn’t related to the work cited in the CfA’s list or because they never received funding from Google at all.
In its initial response last week, Google noted that “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.”
And in a direct attack on CfA, Google also notes that while the group advocates for transparency, its own corporate funders remain in the shadows. The only backer we know of is Oracle, which is obviously competing with Google in many areas. The group has also recently taken on SolarCity/Tesla. In its blog post, Google also argues that “AT&T, the MPAA, ICOMP, FairSearch and dozens more” fund similar campaigns.
When we asked Google for additional comment, the company responded with the following:
It’s not often that a company like Google makes its own GIF in response to a request for comment, but I gather this goes to show that Google wants to move on from this discussion and let the academics speak for themselves.
While the CfA’s methods are less than ideal, there are legitimate questions about how even small amounts of funding can influence research. For the most part, the public discussion around this has centered around pharmaceutical research, but as tech companies like Google and other tech giants fund more research (and step up their own lobbying campaigns), it’s worth discussing how this influences policy research, too.