A member of a Google-funded think tank was removed from the group after publishing a statement praising the penalties placed on Google by the European Union.
The New York Times reports that Barry Lynn, a member of the New America Foundation think tank was removed from the group after he posted a statement praising the European Union for their recent $2.7 billion fine against Google for violation of antitrust regulations. Lynn posted his statement to the New America Foundation website praising the EU, writing:
The Open Markets Team congratulates European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager and the European competition authority for this important decision. Google’s market power is one of the most critical challenges for competition policymakers in the world today. By requiring that Google give equal treatment to rival services instead of privileging its own, Vestager is protecting the free flow of information and commerce upon which all democracies depend.
We call upon U.S. enforcers, including the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice, and states attorneys general, to build upon this important precedent, both in respect to Google and to other dominant platform monopolists including Amazon. U.S. enforcers should apply the traditional American approach to network monopoly, which is to cleanly separate ownership of the network from ownership of the products and services sold on that network, as they did in the original Microsoft case of the late 1990s.
Shortly after the publication of Lynn’s statement, Alphabet CEO Eric Schmidt contacted Anne-Marie Slaughter, the president of the New America Foundation and expressed his displeasure over the article. Lynn’s statement was initially removed from the website but later re-uploaded; meanwhile, word of Schmidt’s displeasure spread throughout the New America Foundation which has been closely tied to Schmidt for some time with the conference room even being called “Eric Schmidt Ideas Lab.”
Slaughter called Lynn, who runs the Open Markets initiative at the New America Foundation, to her office to discuss the issue. In an email between Lynn and Slaughter, Lynn was told: “the time has come for Open Markets and New America to part ways.” This seemed to imply that Lynn and the entire Open markets team, consisting of approximately ten employees, would no longer be part of New America. Slaughter seemed to imply that there were other reasons for letting go of the Open Markets team stating that the decision to remove the team was, “in no way based on the content of your work.”
Lynn stated that he believes Slaughter caved to pressure from Google and Eric Schmidt following the publication of his statement, “Google is very aggressive in throwing its money around Washington and Brussels, and then pulling the strings,” stated Lynn, “People are so afraid of Google now.” However, New America’s executive vice president, Tyra Mariani stated that it was “a mutual decision for Barry to spin out his Open Markets program.”
“New America financial supporters have no influence or control over the research design, methodology, analysis or findings of New America research projects, nor do they have influence or control over the content of educational programs and communications efforts,” said Mariani. She also claimed that the removal of Lynn’s piece from New America’s website was because of “an unintentional internal issue.”
Google has recently been accused of violating multiple antitrust issues and privacy violations, receiving a $2.7 billion fine from the European Union after they were found to be altering search results to direct customers towards their own businesses when shopping online. “What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules. It denied other companies the chance to compete on the merits and to innovate. And most importantly, it denied European consumers a genuine choice of services and the full benefits of innovation,” said EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.
Kent Walker, senior vice president at Google said in a statement, “When you shop online, you want to find the products you’re looking for quickly and easily. And advertisers want to promote those same products. That’s why Google shows shopping ads, connecting our users with thousands of advertisers, large and small, in ways that are useful for both. We will review the Commission’s decision in detail as we consider an appeal, and we look forward to continuing to make our case.”