By: Phil | 08-30-2017 | News
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Don’t Bite the Google that Feeds You!

Google recently became the subject of an investigative report by Wall Street Journal regarding think tanks and researchers who had been offered money (sometimes sums nearing half a million dollars) in order to write research that would show Google in a positive light. It’s interesting that this story started gaining traction shortly after the EU brought up issues that Google acts as something of a digital monopoly. EU regulators recently fined Google $2.7BN (a <i>firm</k> thwack on the company’s wrist).

The latest development, <a href=“”>according to <i>the Intercept</i>,</a> is related to New America Foundation’s Open Markets group. Despite having received millions in total from Google and parent company Alphabet, New America decided to separate themselves from Google. Open Markets division’s Barry Lynn praised the fine: “U.S. enforcers should apply the traditional American approach to network monopoly, which is to cleanly separate ownership of the network from the ownership of the products and services sold on that network, as they did in the original Microsoft case of the late 1990’s.”

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Google-funded think tank fired Google critics after they dared criticize Google <a href=""></a> by <a href="">@samfbiddle</a> <a href="">@ddayen</a></p>&mdash; The Intercept (@theintercept) <a href="">August 30, 2017</a></blockquote>

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According to the <i>New York Times</i>, Barry Lynn’s dissent came with a price. Open Markets and the New America foundation, Lynn was told would “part ways.” The entire Open Markets Division effectively lost their funding. Nearly 10 full-time employees as well as unpaid fellows were banished from New America.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">1. My team at Open Markets and I are leaving New America <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Lina Khan (@linamkhan) <a href="">August 30, 2017</a></blockquote>

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From an email from New America’s Anne-Marie Slaughter to Barry Lynn and the Open Markets Division.

<quote>“We are in the process of trying to expand our relationship with Google on some absolutely key points, just THINK about how you are imperiling funding for others.”</quote>

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Note that New America&#39;s EVP says the decision to part ways w/Barry Lynn was &quot;mutual&quot; in NY Times piece. Slaughter said she fired him.</p>&mdash; Marshall Steinbaum (@Econ_Marshall) <a href="">August 30, 2017</a></blockquote>

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Conflict of interest (i.e. biting the Google that feeds them) led to an immediate dismissal from the think tank.

In a tweet, Ms. Slaughter denies the veracity of the times story, but according to the Intercept, New America’s statement “disputes literally not a single fact in the Times story or any of Lynn’s claims.”

<i>The Intercept</i> notes that Slaughter “threatened to make Lynn’s firing more difficult for him and his team should it generate any negative publicity for New America.” Meanwhile, Slaughter/New America still assert that the New York Times story regarding them being fired for speaking out against their corporate overlords is completely false without offering a stitch of evidence that this is so.

Well, that’s pretty evil, you may think to yourself. And “Isn’t Google’s corporate credo, ‘Don’t be evil,’” you may even add. Yes, Google was once famed for its “Don’t be evil” slogan and corporate philosophy. It’s worth noting that around the time Google was bought by Alphabet they doffed the once-famous philosophy.

Monopolies threaten a free market, but a monopoly over ideas and the spread of ideas is far more dangerous. With Google paying off researchers and operating like prohibition era mafiosos it’s more important than ever to focus on new solutions and new alternatives for our digital infrastructure if free speech is to survive in the digital age.

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