Google 'pays academics millions to influence public opinion'

The CfA wants Google to reveal how it funded 66% of its research

Google apparently spends "millions" on academic research in an attempt to influence the world's opinion on its products and services, the US-based Campaign for Accountability (CfA) has revealed in a report.

According to the watchdog, the internet giant has funded 329 research papers between 2005 and 2017, across various topics, although it would seem the most popular subject is public policy. The reports were written by some of the world's leading research firms and academic institutions including Oxford University, Edinburgh University, Stanford, Harvard, MIT and the Berlin School of Economics.

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The CfA said the majority of these organisations received significant payment from Google or partners closely linked to Google, such as its partners or groups supporting the company's work. Some of the authors were paid up to $400,000, while the lowest paid received $5,000.

It has called for the company to disclose the source of funding in 66% of cases in which it was not clear where the money to carry out the research and produce the report came from.

"Google uses its immense wealth and power to attempt to influence policymakers at every level," said Daniel Stevens, CfA executive director. "At a minimum, regulators should be aware that the allegedly independent legal and academic work on which they rely has been brought to them by Google."

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However, Google has hit back at the CfA's claims, saying the information in the reports is supported by the people that author them and by paying for the research, they are not breaking any rules.

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"Our 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," said director of public policy Leslie Miller in a blog post. "We provide support to help them undertake further research, and to raise awareness of their ideas."

Miller added the fact that Oracle, one of Google's main competitors, has actually funded the CfA in the past was far fropm coincidental, potentially suggesting a smear campaign was at work.

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