Google responds to academic funding controversy — with a GIF

Last week, an advocacy group called Campaign for Accountability (CfA) released
a list of academics and policy experts who had
received funding from Google in the last few years. That
created quite a stir, especially because many of the
scholars on the list didn’t think they should have been
included in this list in the first place — often because the
funding they received from Google wasn’t related to the work
cited in the CfA’s list or because they never received funding
from Google at all.

In its initial response last week, Google noted that
“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.
We provide support to help them undertake further research, and
to raise awareness of their ideas.”

And in a direct attack on CfA, Google also notes that while the
group advocates for transparency, its own corporate funders
remain in the shadows. The only backer we know of is Oracle, which is obviously
competing with Google in many areas. The group has also
recently taken on SolarCity/Tesla. In its blog post,
Google also argues that “AT&T, the MPAAICOMPFairSearch and dozens more” fund
similar campaigns.

When we asked Google for additional comment, the company
responded with the following:

It’s not often that a company like Google makes its own GIF in
response to a request for comment, but I gather this goes to
show that Google wants to move on from this discussion and let
the academics speak for themselves.

While the CfA’s methods are less than ideal, there are
legitimate questions about how even small
amounts of funding can influence research. For the most part,
the public discussion around this has centered around
pharmaceutical research, but as tech companies like Google and
other tech giants fund more research (and step up their own
lobbying campaigns), it’s worth discussing how this influences
policy research, too.

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