Google works with establishment conservative think tanks that argue against regulating the tech giant, one of which had its pro-Google opinions published in National Review, according to a new report.
Audio recordings obtained by Wired reveal that Google cooperates with and funds a range of establishment conservatives in D.C. that help it fend off scrutiny and oversight from politicians. The organizations named in Wired’s report are the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), and the Cato Institute.
Wired details how these Google-funded legacy conservative institutions sprung into action to defend the tech giant from calls for regulation.
In February, The New York Times Magazine published a cover story urging regulators to break up Google because the company abuses its dominance in search to crush promising competitors. The next day, representatives from two conservative think tanks published blog posts defending Google and attacking the article’s call for antitrust enforcement. Both think tanks have received funding from Google. Both blog posts referenced studies by a professor who has received funding from Google. In one post, the study referenced was published in a quarterly journal owned by third think tank, which has also received funding from Google.
One of the Google-funded think tanks had its pro-Google op-ed published by National Review, widely perceived as the bible of establishment conservatism.
In leaked audio obtained by Wired, Google’s public policy team reportedly described the blog posts a result of their efforts to court establishment conservatives.
The meeting was led by Google’s US director of public policy, Adam Kovacevich, who explained that the company had to adjust its government-relations strategy after Donald Trump was elected, particularly since Republicans also control the House and Senate. “I think one of the directives we’ve gotten very clearly from Sundar [Pichai, Google’s CEO], his leadership is to build deeper relationships with conservatives,” Kovacevich said. “I think we’ve recognized that the company is generally seen as liberal by policymakers.”
…“Just to give you an example, last weekend The New York Times Magazine cover story was all about breaking up Google,” Kovacevich said. “Among the people who wrote op-eds and blog posts rebutting that Times piece were two conservative think-tank officials who we work with closely—one from the American Enterprise Institute and one from the Competitive Enterprise Institute..”
Establishment conservatives are among the most vocal defenders of Silicon Valley in Washington D.C., regularly publishing op-eds arguing against the regulation of tech companies. Among their arguments is that any attempt by Congress or the president to stop anti-conservative censorship on the web would be a “fairness doctrine for the internet.”
There are actually a variety of solutions to the censorship problem, including the removal of subsection (c) (2) of Section 230 of the communications decency act, which grants tech companies a privileged safe-harbor exemption from lawsuits arising from their censorship of lawful content.
An even more generous version of the same exemption has been included in Trump’s NAFTA replacement bill. If passed, it would give tech companies even greater legal protection for censorship.
In case anyone still takes bought-and-paid-for establishment arguments about free markets and competition seriously, that’s a special privilege Silicon Valley gets from the state, not from the free market.