Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Google Has Reportedly Been Paying Academic Researchers for Favourable Policy Papers

Todd Haselton, CNBC:

Google has paid researchers and academics who have worked on projects that support the company’s positions in battles with regulators, a report in The Wall Street Journal said on Tuesday.

Google’s practice might not sound all that different from lobbying, but The Wall Street Journal revealed that some of the professors, including a Paul Heald from the University of Illinois, didn’t disclose Google’s payments. Heald is one of “more than a dozen” such professors who accepted money from Google, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Brody Mullins and Jack Nicas, Wall Street Journal:

In some years, Google officials in Washington compiled wish lists of academic papers that included working titles, abstracts and budgets for each proposed paper—then they searched for willing authors, according to a former employee and a former Google lobbyist.

Google promotes the research papers to government officials, and sometimes pays travel expenses for professors to meet with congressional aides and administration officials, according to the former lobbyist. The research has been used, for instance, to deflect antitrust accusations against Google by the Federal Trade Commission in 2012, according to a letter Google attorneys sent to the FTC chairman and viewed by the Journal.

There’s a lack of ethics in much of what went on here — including with one of the sources of Mullins and Nicas’ report. The Campaign for Accountability’s 35-page report was published yesterday, and it makes many of the same claims as the Journal article — the Journal cites it as a source.

But the Campaign for Accountability is a kind of sketchy firm itself: they have repeatedly refused to disclose their funding sources, as Google’s Leslie Miller pointed out in a post addressing this study. When I contacted them earlier today to ask for information on their donors, Daniel Stevens, their executive director, simply sent me a copy of their response to Miller, accusing her of deflecting. I haven’t heard back from Stevens with anything more substantial or, indeed, less ironic.