The think tank New America Foundation cut ties with a scholar after he published an article critical of Google, the tech giant that just so happens to be a big donor to New America, The New York Times revealed Wednesday.
Shortly after European antitrust regulators fined Google $2.7 billion in June, scholar Barry Lynn posted a statement applauding the decision and urging regulators to "more aggressively enforce antitrust rules against Google, Amazon, and 'other dominant platform monopolists,'" the Times reported.
New America's president, Anne-Marie Slaughter, soon received an email from Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google's parent company, expressing his dissatisfaction with Lynn's statement. Lynn's article subsequently disappeared from the site, only to be later posted once again. Days later, Lynn was called into Slaughter's office, where he learned that New America was cutting ties with Open Markets, an initiative he led that reported on the dangers of tech giants' monopolization.
Slaughter told Lynn in an email that the decision, which affected him and the initiative's "nearly 10 full-time employees and unpaid fellows," was "in no way based on the content of your work." But in a prior email, Slaughter had clearly raised concerns about Lynn's work's potential effects on the think tank's relationship with Google, which has given New America more than $21 million. "We are in the process of trying to expand our relationship with Google on some absolutely key points," Slaughter wrote, telling Lynn to "just THINK about how you are imperiling funding for others."
New America Executive Vice President Tyra Mariani insisted it was "a mutual decision for Barry to spin out his Open Markets program," and that neither Google nor Schmidt influenced it. Google spokesperson Riva Sciuto maintained that Google respects the "independence, personnel decisions, and policy perspectives" of the diverse think tanks and nonprofits it supports.
But Lynn sees things differently. "Google is very aggressive in throwing its money around Washington and Brussels, and then pulling the strings," Lynn said. "People are so afraid of Google now."
Update 12:32 p.m. ET: New America issued a statement in response, deeming the claim leveled in The New York Times article to be "absolutely false."