Wednesday, August 30, 2017

"Google-funded think tank fires prominent Google critic" (GOOG)

Something about a piper getting paid and a musical request...

From Ars Technica:

Think tank boss allegedly accused scholar of "imperiling funding for others."
The New America Foundation, a prominent DC think tank that's heavily funded by Google, has parted ways with one of its most influential scholars after he criticized Google's growing monopoly power.

The scholar is Barry Lynn, founder of New America's Open Markets program and a leading advocate of stricter enforcement of antitrust laws. Since the Reagan years, federal antitrust regulators have been more likely to approve mega-mergers and less likely to launch major antitrust lawsuits. Scholars at the Open Markets program have made the case that the US economy would benefit from a return to the more rigorous antitrust regime of the mid-20th century.

The Open Markets team has paid particular attention to technology giants, with Amazon being a favorite whipping boy. On Wednesday morning, the top three stories on the center's home page were all focused on Amazon and its growing market power.

Lynn's team has also been critical of Google, and that has caused friction with the leadership of the New America Foundation, Lynn says. Google and its chairman, Eric Schmidt, have donated millions to New America. Schmidt was also the chairman of New America's board until 2016.

Last year, Lynn organized a major conference focusing on the dangers of concentrated power in the technology sector that attracted big-name speakers like Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Slaughter wasn't happy, Lynn told The New York Times.

"We are in the process of trying to expand our relationship with Google on some absolutely key points," Slaughter allegedly wrote in an e-mail to Lynn around the time of the 2016 conference. "Just THINK about how you are imperiling funding for others."

According to Lynn, things came to a head in June of this year, after his team issued a press release praising the European Union for issuing a multi-billion-dollar fine against Google for violating competition laws. Lynn told the Times that Schmidt complained to New America President Anne-Marie Slaughter about Lynn's statement praising the EU action.

"The time has come for Open Markets and New America to part ways," Slaughter allegedly wrote in a subsequent e-mail to Lynn, which Lynn shared with the Times. The e-mail claimed that Lynn's firing was "in no way based on the content of your work," but Slaughter nevertheless faulted Lynn for "imperiling the institution as a whole."

Lynn believes that Slaughter had (in the words of NYT reporter Ken Vogel) "caved to pressure from Mr. Schmidt and Google, and, in so doing, set the desires of a donor over the think tank’s intellectual integrity."...MORE