Google Transparency Project declines to reveal who funded its research into digital giant's grants to academia

Google Transparency Project declines to reveal who funded its research into digital giant's grants to academia

The Google Transparency Project has published in-depth analysis of the way the digital giant gives extensive funding to academic research which supports its world view.

But the project has declined to reveal the source of its own funding.

The Good Transparency Project is run by the US-based Campaign for Accountability.

It revealed last week that it had identified 330 research papers published between 2005 and 2017 on “public policy matters of interest to Google that were in some way funded by the company”.

It said: “The academic papers examined encompassed a wide range of policy and legal issues of critical importance to Google’s bottom line, including antitrust, privacy, net neutrality, search neutrality, patents and copyright. They were also tied to specific issues that Google sought to influence.

“The number of Google-funded studies tended to spike during moments when its business model came under threat from regulators—or when the company had opportunities to push for regulations on its competitors.”

The source of funding for the Google Research Project is not apparent on its website.

When Press Gazette asked who funds it we received this response from executive director Daniel Stevens.

He said: “We think our work speaks for itself.  Over the past 18 months, the Google Transparency Project has documented more than 425 White House meetings by Google lobbyists, 250 revolving door hires between Google and government and more than 325 academic papers paid for by the company to help advance its policy interests.

“All of the underlying data is published on the site, along with more than 40,000 pages of Google emails with US government officials.

“The data in the report has also been subject to analysis by The Wall Street Journal, which cited the data in its own investigative article today.”

The Times reported last month on Google’s extensive lobbying efforts to safeguard its lucrative monopoly position as the dominant internet search engine in the world.

Public disclosures reveal it has spent €4.25m lobbying the European Union in the last year alone and has 14 people directly involved in lobbying the EU. Last year Google’s staff held 124 meetings with European commissioners and their closest advisers.

Google also has a history senior government communications advisers.

Citing research by Transparency International, more than half Google’s most senior lobbyists in Brussels previously worked for the EU.

Google parent company Alphabet made £20.7bn profit in 2016. Press Gazette research suggests that Google is by far the dominant force in UK advertising, taking around £5bn in ad revenue last year (around half the total spent on digital advertising in the UK).

Press Gazette’s Duopoly campaign highlights concerns that by 2020 Google and Facebook are expected to take 71 per cent of UK digital advertising, leaving little space in the market for news publishers.

A Google spokesperson said: “Ever since Google was born out of Stanford’s Computer Science department, we’ve maintained strong relations with universities and research institutes, and have always valued their independence and integrity.

“We’re happy to support academic researchers across computer science and policy topics, including copyright, free expression and surveillance, and to help amplify voices that support the principles of an open internet.

“And unlike our competitors who fund the Campaign for Accountability, we expect and require our grantees to disclose their funding.”

Google has expanded on this in a blog post.

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