Barry Lynn says his story speaks to much broader social and economic risks.

By David Z. Morris
September 1, 2017

 

Barry Lynn was, until recently, a senior fellow at New America, a think tank partly funded by Google. Lynn and his research program were pushed out of New America, according to a New York Times report, following a June statement by him praising the European Union’s antitrust actions against Google and calling for more of the same.

New America has said Lynn’s firing was based on his failure to be a team player, not on the content of his views, which have been well-known for years. But in an op-ed for the Washington Post, Lynn himself now claims that criticizing Google cost him his job. According to Lynn, he and his team were pushed out of New America just two days after his note on the EU decision, following specific threats by Google that it might withdraw its funding from New America because of Lynn’s statement.

Lynn also says that his story is a perfect illustration of why corporate power and weakening antitrust regulation are so dangerous. Concentrating influence in too few hands, he argues, stifles both economic growth and democratic freedoms, including access to diverse opinions.

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Lynn’s concerns about economic dynamism are well-founded. The last 30 years has seen a decline of nearly 50% in the proportion of companies that are startups, while new companies drive as much as 70% of job growth in the U.S. The specific behavior that led to the EU fine crippled small comparison shopping startups that some say offered more innovative services than the replacement Google used its search power to promote.

Lynn says politics is an even bigger concern, though. “It’s our job as citizens to structure a political economy that keeps corporations small enough to ensure that their actions never threaten the people’s sovereignty over our nation,” he said. Similar concerns have been echoed from across the political spectrum in recent months, in cases ranging from Facebook’s influence over the news its users see to Google’s treatment of employees to Internet infrastructure companies refusing services to hate groups.

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