Google covertly funded research that defends the company's practices

Google sign.
(Image credit: BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images)

A Wall Street Journal investigation published Tuesday revealed that Google has a track record of financing research papers that it's then surfaced to defend itself, in some cases in potential legal battles:

Google has paid professors whose papers, for instance, declared that the collection of consumer data was a fair exchange for its free services; that the company didn't use its market dominance to improperly steer users to Google's commercial sites or its advertisers; and that it hasn't unfairly quashed competitors. Several papers argued that Google's search engine should be allowed to link to books and other intellectual property that authors and publishers say should be paid for. [The Wall Street Journal]

Since 2009, Google has funded an estimated 100 papers "on public-policy matters," the Journal reported. The tech giant has paid academic researchers "stipends of $5,000 to $400,000" and even read over papers before they were published, offering up suggestions. At some points, Google officials dreamed up "wish lists of academic papers that included working titles, abstracts, and budgets for each proposed paper — then they searched for willing authors," the Journal reported.

Google's financial involvement was often not disclosed in published papers. Researchers maintained that Google's monetary contributions did not affect their work.

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Of course, Google wouldn't be the first company to leverage academic research. The Journal noted the food and drug industry has long exploited research as "a tool of influence," as have Google's tech competitors. Microsoft, Verizon, and AT&T have all contributed financially to research critical of Google.

Google said that it's decision to fund academic research stems from its "strong relations with universities and research institutes." "We're happy to support academic researchers across computer science and policy topics," Google said.

Read more on the story at The Wall Street Journal.

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