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Google’s Think Tank Support – Bribery Or Blackmail?

The tech companies such as Google pay significant sums of money to varied think tanks and pressure groups. The aim of all this is obviously to influence the law about what Google may or may not do. There’s really no doubt about that.

And now to what there is doubt about. Is this a lightly concealed bribery, the tech giant’s money buying privilege in the political process? Or is it blackmail by the political process of the tech giants?

Google has spent tens of millions of pounds funding think tanks that have published papers supporting its policy interests.

A report seen by The Times examined the financial backing of five institutions in Britain and Europe. The academic groups also stage events that allow Google lobbyists to rub shoulders with ministers and policymakers who might not attend those run under the technology company’s branding.

The report, compiled by a US watchdog, said that Europe was crucial to Google because the European Commission was the only regulator outside America with sufficient clout to cause the company to change its conduct. The commission fined Google €2.4 billion last summer for abuse of market dominance in shopping search results.

Obviously, if some bureaucracy has the ability to nick €2.4 billion off your shareholders you would be negligent if you didn’t spend a few tens of millions to influence that bureaucracy. But what’s the cause, which is chicken, which egg?

I tend towards it all being a blackmail paid to the policy process. Years back it was noted that neither Google nor Microsoft really did any lobbying. They weren’t paying money into the DC political process at all, no campaign contributions, no fees to lobbying shops and so on. But that political process had noted that they were now large companies with lots of money. They started to talk about regulation of the sector.

Now, perhaps regulation was and is necessary. And perhaps it isn’t. But I would insist that at least some of it is about threatening regulation in order to increase the flow of money into the political ecosystem. You know, nice business you’ve got there, be a shame if the law were changed, wouldn’t it?

No, this isn’t paranoia, it’s a clear eyed view of how the politics of regulation works. Once any activity becomes significant the political process wants a piece of it.

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Hallowed Be
Hallowed Be
6 years ago

Hang on, is because of or despite Brexit. I am enjoying the constant stream of remoaners pointing out stories about bankers relocating to mainland Europe when, before the referendum, they were moaning even more about the plethora of bankers in London.

Bloke on M4
Bloke on M4
6 years ago

The story I heard is that Bill Gates had a perspective of separation of business and government, and that the browser bundling prosecution was basically a shakedown.

6 years ago
Reply to  Bloke on M4

It was absolutely a shakedown, comparable to the assertion that Ford must offer the car buyer his choice of radios or air filters. Maybe a nice thing but in no way required by law, until the “Justice Department” interprets it, aided by the notion that Microsoft’s “monopoly” over operating systems was harmful and permanent.

6 years ago

If you consider the “political ecosystem” to be more than just the government itself but also the attorneys, lobbyists, NGOs, and other entities that either try to control access or change the laws, then perhaps lobbying fees could be considered a form of taxation as they do get paid into this “ecosystem”.

The Microsoft case about too many people using Explorer rather than Netscape was simply a shakedown. One of the dumbest cases ever.

Hallowed Be
Hallowed Be
6 years ago

Not me at the top. (hopefully obviously so)

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