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Scholar Fired By Think Tank For Criticizing Google

basil_hallwardSep 1, 2017, 5:05:13 PM
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Shortly after European monopolies regulators levied a record $2.7 billion fine against Google in June 2017, an influential Washington think tank The New America Foundation found out the hard way what can happen when a corporate bully is challenged.

The Foundation has been funded to the tune of $21 million by Google; its parent company Alphabet, and Alphabet's executive chairman, Eric Schmidt through his family's foundation since the it was founded in 1999. That money propelled New America to the status of an influential player in policy debates on the American left and helped Google shape those debates, and thereby government policy.

The Think Tank's debates and deliberations were supposed to be independent of Google and its financial support should not have bought any influence. That is not how Google plays the game however and when one of New America's scholars posted a comment on the think tank's website supporting the European Union's action and questioning the ethics of Google's business methods, Schmidt contacted the groups president, Anne-Marie Slaughter, according to the scholar.

Slaughter summoned the scholar, Barry Lynn, to her office and made Schmidt's displeasure known. Lynn had been running a New America initiative called Open Markets, which is thought to have been instrumental in the growing criticism of the market dominance of telecom and tech giants assembled by Google under Schmidt's leadership and now consolidated under a corporate umbrella known as Alphabet.

Lynn's statement quickly disappeared from New America's website, but was reposted without explanation a few hours later. Word of Mr. Schmidt's anger at a member of an "independent" think - tank criticizing his corporate empire ripped through New America's Washington offices where the main conference room is called the "Eric Schmidt Ideas Lab." (Note to E Schmidt: We do not need to be reminded you are an egomaniac Eric.) Some people feared for their jobs, knowing the characteristic vengefulness of Google bosses might well lead to funding being cut, while others worried that the think tank could not be truly independent if it could be punished for offending its donors.

Those worries seemed to be substantiated a couple of days later, when Ms. Slaughter told Mr. Lynn that “the time has come for Open Markets and New America to part ways,” Lynn substantiated this claim by producing an email from Ms. Slaughter suggesting that the entire Open Markets team — nearly 10 full-time employees and unpaid fellows — would have their relationship with New America terminated.

While she asserted in the email, which was viewed and confirmed by The New York Times, that the decision was "in no way based on the content of your work," Ms. Slaughter went on to contradict herself by accusing Mr. Lynn of "imperiling the institution as a whole."

Mr. Lynn, in an interview said, "Google is very aggressive in throwing its money around Washington and Brussels, and then pulling the strings," (an accusation borne out by some of our previous reports of Google's influence in Washington.) "People are so afraid of Google now," he added.

Google rejected any suggestion that it played a role in New America's split with Open Markets (to paraphrase Mandy Rice Davis, a prostitute involved in a British political scandal in 1963,"Well they would, wouldn't they?"). Riva Sciuto, a Google spokeswoman, pointed out that the company supports a wide range of think tanks and other nonprofits focused on information access and internet regulation. "We don't agree with every group 100 percent of the time, and while we sometimes respectfully disagree, we respect each groups independence, personnel decisions and policy perspectives," she said.

The delay in this story breaking as it deals with an event that took place in June might be connected to the sudden volte face of many leading Democrats who have previously seemed comfortable with Washington's cosy relationship with tech giants such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Migrosoft, suddenly discovering that many of their core voters are unhappy about the influence certain coporations exert over government.

New America's executive vice president, Tyra Mariani, said it was "a mutual decision for Barry to spin out his Open Markets program," and that the move was not in any way influenced by Google or Mr. Schmidt.

It appears that not only do Google abuse their dominant position in the internet search market, they abuse the truth as well.

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I've been trying to warn you for years but would you tech heads and science heads listen?