Report: Google Spent Millions To Influence Academic Research

July 15, 2017 - Written By Dominik Bosnjak

Google spent millions of dollars to influence academic research conducted by professors from renowned universities like Berkeley and Harvard over the last decade, according to numerous email transcripts obtained by The Wall Street Journal through public records requests. The Alphabet-owned company is understood to be looking to finance a wide variety of university researchers whose work it believes can help promote its public policy agenda. During the aforementioned period, Google reportedly financed individual studies with up to $400,000, with some of its beneficiaries even sharing their works prior to their publication and accepting input from the Mountain View, California-based tech giant. Most academics backed by Google failed to disclose their relationships with the company in their published works, though some claim that the firm made no conditions when offering to finance them.

Regardless, Google is understood to have benefitted from numerous academic works it supported financially, with the recent report indicating that the Internet giant even managed to resolve its 2012 dispute with the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) due to one such research, having used it to fend off allegations of anti-competitive practices. It’s currently unclear whether the government agency was then aware that the research presented by Google was financed by the company itself, but the firm’s activities in this field are essentially an indirect form of lobbying, some industry watchers believe. In response to the aforementioned discovery, Google stated that it has “maintained strong relations” with academics, university researchers, and higher education institutions in the country ever since its beginnings in the late ’90s, as even its co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin originally met at the Stanford University.

Apart from approximately 100 academic research papers pertaining to public policy matters that were directly financed by the company since 2009, a similar amount of them received financial backing from research centers and other organizations that are supported by Google during the same period, as indicated by the data collected by advocacy group Campaign for Accountability. Alphabet’s largest subsidiary reportedly isn’t the only Silicon Valley giant to pursue influencing public policy-related opinions by financing academics, with some industry watchers claiming that the likes of Qualcomm and Microsoft have been doing so for years, and the same lobbying technique has been and still is popular with the oil, drug, and some other industries for decades.