Google Reportedly Paid Professors For Favorable Policy Papers

Jul 11, 2017

Google has paid university professors to write academic papers that support its views on public policy issues.

That’s according to a report Tuesday by the Wall Street Journal that’s based on an analysis of 329 research papers identified by the Campaign for Accountability advocacy group as linked to Google in some way.

The non-profit’s study showed that these research papers, published between 2005 to 2017 and covering policy subjects like antitrust issues, “were in some way funded by the company,” the Campaign for Accountability wrote.

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The Journal’s report also includes emails from professors that highlight some of the ways Google (goog) sought to influence their writings. University of Florida law professor Daniel Sokol, for example, wrote an academic paper that said Google’s handling of user data—a controversial issue for privacy advocates—was legal.

However, Sokol failed to disclose the law firm he worked for as a part-time lawyer represents Google. Additionally, emails uncovered by the Journal show that Sokol apparently asked Google for money to help persuade other professors to write policy papers based on unspecified patent issues in conjunction with a Google-backed online conference.

Google told the Journal that it did not pay any professors, but emails between Sokol and Google show that Sokol asked Google to send him “$5,000, like last time” for his work at the conference. Sokol told the Journal that he “should have disclosed the sponsorship for such organization and have now done so.”

Numerous other examples of Google influencing academics are highlighted by the Journal’s report, including one from University of Michigan law professor Daniel Crane who declined to take money from Google to support his paper that argued against “antitrust regulation of internet search engines.”

“Yeah, the money is good but it does get in the way of objective academic research,” Crane said.

Google issued a harsh response Tuesday to the Campaign for Accountability’s analysis of academic papers with financial ties to the search giant. Google said the non-profit’s report is “highly misleading” and that when Google provides money to academics, “we expect and require grantees to properly disclose our funding.”

The search giant also chastised the non-profit for failing to disclose it’s own corporate backers, which, as Fortune’s Jeff Roberts reported last summer, includes Oracle (orcl).

Google said that Oracle is “running a well-documented lobbying campaign against us,” and that the non-profit’s other corporate “backers won’t ‘fess up either” about their financial ties to the group.

An Oracle spokesperson told Fortune that the company has "absolutely nothing to do with this report."

“We’re proud of our programs and their integrity,” Google said in a statement. “The ‘Campaign for Accountability’ and its funders are, clearly, not proud of theirs.”

It should be noted that Google's statement did not mention the Journal's report highlighting emails between Google employees and various professors.

Update: Thursday, July 13, 11:40 AM PST
Story corrected to reflect that Sokol identified his affiliation with the law firm, but did not reveal that the law firm's client was Google.

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