Google critic fired from think tank funded by company

Google critic fired from think tank funded by company
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A researcher at a high-profile Washington, D.C., think tank, which receives funding from Google, was pushed out after criticizing the company.

In June, Barry Lynn, who was a scholar at New America, posted a statement praising the European Union’s record $2.7 billion fine against Google. Lynn ran a team, Open Markets, that researched competition policy and was increasingly critical of giants like Google and Amazon.

Google executive chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt criticized Lynn’s statement to the think tank’s CEO, Anne-Marie Slaughter, according to The New York Times.

Schmidt chaired New America until 2016. The think tank has received $21 million from Google and Schmidt’s family’s foundation since its founding in 1999.  

The statement reportedly disappeared from the think tank website but returned hours later. According to the Times, word of Schmidt’s displeasure spread across the think tank.

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Slaughter brought Lynn into her office several days later to let him know that he was no longer welcome at the think tank.

She later reiterated to Lynn in an email reviewed by the Times that “the time has come for Open Markets and New America to part ways.” Slaughter suggested that the entire Open Markets team of researchers and unpaid fellows would be removed from New America.

In that email, Slaughter wrote that Lynn and his team's removal was “in no way based on the content of your work” but said he was “imperiling the institution as a whole.”

After the Times' published its story on Wednesday morning, Slaughter asserted that Lynn was fired for his "repeated refusal to adhere to New America’s standards of openness and institutional collegiality." In a statement, she denied that Google played any part in the decision.

Slaughter also tweeted that the New York Times' story was "false," but did not point to specific inconsistencies. 

Lynn disagrees though. The former New America researcher told the Times he believes he was dismissed was because he criticized Google.

“Google is very aggressive in throwing its money around Washington and Brussels, and then pulling the strings,” Lynn told the Times. “People are so afraid of Google now.”

Google says that it did not play a role in Lynn’s dismissal. Riva Sciuto, a Google spokeswoman, said Google funds many think tanks and nonprofits.

“We don’t agree with every group 100 percent of the time, and while we sometimes respectfully disagree, we respect each group’s independence, personnel decisions and policy perspectives,” she told the Times.

New America executive vice president Tyra Mariani also told the Times Google did not influence the decision and never intervenes, as Lynn alleges. She said Lynn’s post was temporarily deleted because of “an unintentional internal issue.”

In a tweet, Slaughter called the Times story “false” and said the think tank would publish a full statement later Wednesday.

Lynn’s Open Markets work on tech and competition is seen as groundbreaking and academics were quick to blast Google after his ouster.

“(1) Monopoly is a political problem. (2) We don't like bullies. (3) We will not stop our work,” wrote Matt Stoeller, a fellow at Open Markets.

“Google's monopoly over search is not just a threat to edge innovation. By controlling what may be said in DC, it's a threat to democracy,” tweeted Hal Singer, another economist researching antitrust issues.

Google’s foes also pounced on the controversy.

“I've been working on Google antitrust for 6 years. This is both the most shocking & least surprising thing I've read,” Yelp’s VP of public policy tweeted.