back to article Criticize Google, get fired: Spotlight spins on ad giant's use of soft money

The firing of a high-profile academic has spun a spotlight onto one of the public policy world's best-known dirty secrets: Google's use of donations to stymie criticism of its business. Barry Lynn has been a persistent critic of the ad giant, particularly its growing monopoly over much of our digital lives. "It's becoming …

  1. Mycho Silver badge

    Welcome to the future, it's broken

    I guess this one wasn't so easily libelled as anti-diversity.

  2. bombastic bob Silver badge
    Devil

    drain the swamp

    just sayin'

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: drain the swamp

      Unfortunately, Trump is the swamp.

      We will need a lot more hardcore conservatives to get anything done.

      1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

        Re: drain the swamp

        "Unfortunately, Trump is the swamp."

        Yes,

        "We will need a lot more hardcore conservatives to get anything done."

        Ehh.. No.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: drain the swamp

        Reel 'em in.

    2. Archtech Silver badge

      Re: drain the swamp

      https://wallscover.com/images/deep-state-wallpaper-8.jpg

    3. DougS Silver badge

      Re: drain the swamp

      What's the definition of "draining the swamp"? There is more than one type of "insider". You have your political insiders (i.e. someone who used to work on some congressional staff or a former lobbyist) you have your corporate insiders (someone who used to work for a big company like Google or Exxon and former lobbyists count here too) you have your military insiders (former officers who worked in the Pentagon or filled non-combat roles like procurement or logistics) your intelligence insiders (former CIA/NSA/DIA etc. employees) and your media insiders (former journalists, cable news talking heads and so forth) There are probably other categories I'm leaving out.

      Obviously you can't say NONE of these are acceptable, or who can you appoint? Some might call for an administration to avoid appointing anyone with strong business ties, to prevent corporations from calling the shots (like Google is here) or if you have a fear of the "deep state" you might avoid appointing people with an intelligence background. But you gotta pick someone, unless you're going to appoint plumbers and programmers to roles they are completely unqualified for in the CIA, EPA, DoD and so forth.

      That's the problem with Trump's whole charade about draining the swamp. He's appointing just as many swamp creatures as every other president, just a different type than Obama was, who appointed a different type than Bush and so forth. Since there's no way to measure the level of the swamp he can claim he's draining it and there's not really any way for anyone to prove otherwise. Now of course he can't prove he's doing it either, but Trump doesn't think he needs to prove anything because he just assumes whatever happens to come out of his mouth is automatically true because he's president...

    4. Nameless Faceless Computer User

      Re: drain the swamp

      Yet more Republican rhetoric which means nothing yet sounds so good. Let's break down this metaphor. Draining the swamp - infers we have three components: Swamp, water, and residents of the swamp. So... I get that the residents of the swamp are the Democrats. Why is it a swamp? A swamp or marsh or wetland is a valuable ecosystem. In the United States wetlands are often protected from "draining" which would kill all the wildlife. Why are swamps undesirable? Why are the residents of swamp undesirable they deserve to die?

      What does the water represent, exactly? If we're removing the water from the swamp, perhaps the water is the undesirable component? Why would water be undesirable? I guess the residents are the undesirable component then and removing the water is meant to kill them off? And, the justification for killing off all the wildlife is because we don't like the word "swamp?" If we were to say, destroy the wetlands the whole thing takes on an opposite meaning of something horrible.

      If the water were the Democrats, and the swamp was Washington, removing the Democrats from Washington would cause the wetlands to become dysfunctional and unable to support a balanced environment.

  3. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
    FAIL

    That word

    "So, if you mention extortion again, I'll have your legs broken." - Google Mayor Carmine DePasto (Animal House, 1978)

  4. Orv Silver badge

    Like any problem, this one will get attention only now that it's affecting white guys with money.

    1. Big John Silver badge

      So there are many poor black women who have had their Google funding yanked for criticizing Google? And this news is being suppressed because they are not rich and white?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        You missed the point. Many whites will only do something when they are threatened. The poor black women you refer to have never had the same benefits, maybe Google will pay attention to them in future.

        Signed,

        Middle class white guy.

        1. Big John Silver badge

          > "Many whites will only do something when they are threatened."

          Isn't that standard human behavior? Why attribute it only to whites?

          Racist much?

          1. Orv Silver badge

            Because whites are the ones with the power to effect change. And they will only do so when they see people who look like them being threatened.

            1. Big John Silver badge

              You really believe people who aren't "white" have no power to effect change? Tell that to MLK. Or Gandhi. Or Barack Obama.

              Also, if blacks in the US didn't automatically vote Democrat every single time, they might (as a group) have very significant clout. But as it is, their votes are taken for granted by the same party that held them down for so very many years.

  5. scrubber
    WTF?

    Beware!!!

    "Today, we made the difficult decision to terminate Barry Lynn,"

    Terminate? Holy shit!

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: Beware!!!

      To be fair, he was given twenty seconds to comply...

    2. LDS Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Beware!!!

      She's named "Slaughter"...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Beware!!!

      When will he be back?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Beware!!!

        >When will he be back?

        Jan 2020 - After the Vista's baby.

  6. TomMariner

    More Powerful than Google

    Google, using pressure to stop dissent? How about a Democrat-front single-issue group threatening so much damage that Google instantly fired a guy who wrote an internal memo?

    Can you imagine a group so strong they can get State Legislators to reverse a law they had just written? North Carolina representatives caved to a group more powerful than the whole State Government.

    Google is a wimp next to our Activist / Protest groups.

    1. Big John Silver badge

      Re: More Powerful than Google

      To be fair, it only took a little shove for Google to succumb to the atavistic activists.

      They kinda agree with the less frothy ones, and they really, really wanted to fire that guy anyway.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: More Powerful than Google

      Can you imagine a group so strong they can get State Legislators to reverse a law they had just written?

      NRA?

      Pinko-commie Soros-funded leftist-bastards.

      * Some facts may be alternative facts.

      1. Big John Silver badge

        Re: More Powerful than Google

        The NRA threatens with votes. It's called democracy.

        Antifa and BLM threaten with direct violence. It's called terrorism.

        1. Potemkine! Silver badge

          Re: More Powerful than Google

          The NRA threatens with votes. It's called democracy.

          "We're coming for you"

          Is that terrorism too? Nah, it's the (far-)right alternative world, it's called "free speech".

          1. Big John Silver badge

            Re: More Powerful than Google

            Dude, did you even read that article you linked to? It shows leftist reporters freaking out, insisting that the word "fisk" was actually the word "fist" and then smearing people with the lie.

            And when was metaphorical language made an actionable offense? Did a single person in the US actually believe that "We're coming for you" meant a violent attack from the NRA was imminent? Aren't you criminalizing the speech of your opponents? Is that all you have?!

            I'm sorry, but your response to me was a bit pathetic. I take no joy in showing you up, but it needed to be done.

  7. Mark 85 Silver badge
    Windows

    Take the king's shilling, you do the king's bidding.

    see title

    1. Daggerchild Silver badge

      Re: Take the king's shilling, you do the king's bidding.

      I'm reading up on this and, well, it looks like Lynn kinda pissed off his boss while she was busy trying to milk Google for more.

      And was building a separate powerbase within her organisation.

      And may have countermanded her web takedown.

      And if, during this mounting disagreement, he treated her "like a woman"..

      1. Big John Silver badge

        Re: Take the king's shilling, you do the king's bidding.

        > "And if, during this mounting disagreement, he treated her "like a woman..."

        That mounting disagreement you refer to is just Google's purchased influence at work, as we have all been discussing here on this thread. It's more or less what Google paid to have happen, for what it's worth.

        But that "like a woman" bit is just you alone making up a scurrilous charge out of thin air simply to cast Lynn (and his boss too) in a bad light, apparently. I guess you don't like some people very much.

        Have I described your statement accurately?

        1. Daggerchild Silver badge

          Re: Take the king's shilling, you do the king's bidding.

          "Have I described your statement accurately?"

          Not really, no. I'm just factoring in how women are treated in tech, by men, subconsciously, on average.

          Then I cross referenced with the male mind type likely demonstrated by the strategies in the previous points, and added in the known fact that they are also strongly opinionated, and may be leading a pack.

          The "Google are evil, therefore stop thinking" end of the probability spectrum is well covered. I'm just going to explore the rest, just in case, y'know, large crowds of angry people aren't reliable evaluators of unclear events.

          1. Big John Silver badge

            Re: Take the king's shilling, you do the king's bidding.

            > "Not really, no. I'm just factoring in how women are treated in tech, by men, subconsciously, on average."

            It's cute how you stick in that word, "subconsciously." You cast white guys as the villains, and they are villains even without their own knowledge. There is nothing I could say that you could not counter with such a dirty tactic. Just give it up.

            1. Daggerchild Silver badge

              Re: Take the king's shilling, you do the king's bidding.

              "You cast white guys as the villains, and they are villains even without their own knowledge."

              "Villains" is your word not mine. I'm just using this as an extra bit of probabilistic weighting. I notice you are attacking me instead of denying it though, possibly because it's accepted knowledge?

              If over-reading negative connotation into single words in my multi-component opinion is causing you offence, maybe you should stop doing that?

              "There is nothing I could say that you could not counter with such a dirty tactic. Just give it up."

              Uhuh. Meanwhile, you "just know" that "Google are evil", and are accusing others of unjust auto-villainisation. I don't think "dirty tactics" are the reason you are having difficulty with my opinion.

          2. Blackheart

            Re: Take the king's shilling, you do the king's bidding.

            When are you opening that Psychic Hotline?

  8. Youngone Silver badge

    Surprise

    It's not like Google is the only one doing this in various forms.

    We've all seen the anti-global warming stuff written by "researchers" paid by the Koch brothers.

    There is also the odd movement of senior staff between the Treasury Department (and various other US Government departments) and Goldman Sachs.

    I'm sure commentards are capable of finding all sorts of links between the ruling class of the US and the governing class of corporate America.

    The bloke who wrote the book on how this whole system is put together ran Italy in the 1920's and '30's.

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Surprise

      The elites in all countries have been making sure they have their fingers in the pie in all the right places. Usually they prefer less visible rolls and migrating between government, think tanks, and select industries as the political winds shift back and forth. They have been doing this for centuries if not millennia.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Surprise

      We've all seen the anti-global warming stuff written by "researchers" paid by the Koch brothers.

      Does that mean that the pro-global warming stuff is written by "researchers" paid by George Soros?

      For the instant downvoters: do you really not see how stupid the hyperbole is in both statements?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Surprise

      There are no links, they are the same.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: odd movement

      "the odd movement of senior staff between the Treasury Department (and various other US Government departments) and Goldman Sachs."

      In Europe they seem to go from Goldman Sachs into government. Mind you, maybe Goldman Sachs are government.

      http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/analysis-and-features/what-price-the-new-democracy-goldman-sachs-conquers-europe-6264091.html (Nov 2011)

  9. Rob D. Bronze badge
    Meh

    Very light

    That's a pretty thin piece here and even the original in the NYT - a headline and article long on innuendo and insinuation missing relevant evidence beyond he-said-she-said, an articulation of well-established public positions from a range of people or groups wrt Google et al, and bulked out with a rehashing of articles from last year and the year before. Even the NYT equivocates on what was actually in the Slaughter-Lynn email with some selective quoting.

    This has only come up because Lynn is annoyed at being bounced along and went to the NYT with a cause and an email - Schmidt/Google have been funding the New America group for a couple of decades nearly so any undue influence would have come to the fore well before now.

    More meat required.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is this really surprising? Even if what he claims happened did, in fact, happen... who knows if it did or not. When someone pays you to advocate on their behalf or for their causes, you can't attack them instead and expect to keep getting paid. It is not censorship to decide not to continue to write checks to a group who has decided to attack you or your company or the causes you originally thought they supported. It is one thing if someone stops you from expressing your opinions. It is another to expect to be paid by the groups or people you want to express negative opinions about.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      From the downvotes you are getting it does seem there are quite a few out there who believe the right of free speech extends to forcing people being attacked to pay for such attacks with their not wishing to do so cast as pure evil.

      Un-fucking-believable.

    2. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Implicit/Explicit

      The point here is not that Google weren't getting the good PR they were paying for, it's that they claim that "supporting research" isn't paid-for PR. Those of us reading the "research" were not aware (until now) that it's really Google PR, not research.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Implicit/Explicit

        "Those of us reading the "research" were not aware (until now) that it's really Google PR, not research"

        You thought that the Washington think tanks were completely unbiased organizations. Who do you think pays their salaries? The "research" firms are lobbying firms, all of them... no organization is completely unbiased, it is always biased in favor of whoever is paying the bills.

        Kind of like in the IT world... Gartner, for instance, isn't an unbiased research firm. They support who pays them. They are never going to put some small start up in the upper right of the magic quads. They are going to put some large firm who has been paying for their conferences and papers in the upper right. If you correlate payments to Gartner with placement in the upper right on the magic quads, there will be a high direct correlation.

  11. TReko

    Oops

    There goes el Reg's search engine ranking.

  12. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    Makes the tobacco giants look like complete feeble amatures.

    Knowledge is power, and I bet Google knows quite a lot by know.

    What was that guy, McAfee, saying now again?

  13. td97402

    Who Do These Fools Think They Are?

    You got to be a billionaire these days to have an opinion and have it heard. The rest of you need to shut up and do your jobs. You did want to keep that job, right?

  14. TheElder

    The problem with Google

    Rings a Bell.

  15. slj

    monopoly capitalism

    Money being the main motivator of Capitalism and so few in charge of the engines of capitalism and this attitude of crushing dissent and criticism so as not to hurt a individual corporations bottom line is a recipe for disaster.

    To few have to much power with no safeguards. Democracy works because someone is always in my face pointing out what doesn't work. Take that away and see how long the system lasts.

    My favorite example is Mao Tse Tung who decided being the genius that he thought he was that the birds were eating all the grain. Because no one could point out his error the great famine killed 40 million.

    Now we have climate change and we won't let a little thing like that get in way of profit will we.

  16. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Not so shocking after all

    The problem is for any organization which needs private money to work. Therefore it cannot be truly independent, it depends on the good will of the people who pay for these organizations to exist.

    In that context, biting the hand that feed you can only turn ugly.

    That's why we need public research, with laws protecting researchers independence, for instance by protecting them from being harassed by their hierarchy, or having independent control bodies in the loop. Not perfect, but mandatory because "the law of the richest" does not insure the plurality of opinions.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nihil mali faciatis

    Go to Google translate

  18. Fred Tourette

    So Much for "Don't Be Evil"

    I knew that slogan was out the window when GOOG went public. Sooner or later, answering to shareholders trumps* all else.

    *Shit, can't even use that word in plain language any more.

  19. Archtech Silver badge

    "Don't be evil" - pah!

    So much for Google's original good resolution. They are just as evil as the rest of the giant corporations.

    "It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them".

    - Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar, Ch. XX

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Don't be evil" - pah!

      That's the problem with moral relativism. If people are encouraged to define goodness and morality to suit their own tastes, then the definition of evil likewise follows.

      "Us evil? Nope, don't see it."

  20. Cuddles Silver badge

    Nothing new

    People love to focus on Google for this sort of behaviour, but there really isn't anything new or unusual going on here. How exactly do people think groups like the NRA, oil industry, pharmaceutical industry, tobacco, cars, Boeing, the cable and mobile monopolies, and so on ad infinitum, gain and keep their influence? And that's just a few of the more obvious ones in the USA, which, despite how ridiculous it may sound, is actually one of the less corrupt countries around. That doesn't make it any better when Google join the game, but they're very much the new kids on the block when it comes to this kind of buying influence.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sounds similar to

    a Council I once worked at. They moved to Google on lies sold to Councillors who believed it would be cheaper. It turns out it wasn't but because it was the pet project of the Chief Exec and his cronies if you questioned it you'd "magically" became redundant.

  22. transformer

    Yelp is totally hypocritical

    I willing to listen to criticism of Google, except from Yelp. Yelp plays dirty in its earlier days by blackmailing merchants to buy into their sponsorship and hide community critical reviews of their paying sponsors. If Yelp is as heavy weight as Google, they would be behaving much worse than Google.

    In defense of Google, they have not done anything that is outrageously unethical. In fact, one of the most important reasons that Google was able to beat Yahoo, Microsoft, and many other search engines in the early days of Internet was precisely Google was trustworthy in the search results. Most other major search engines put their advertisers links in the first few pages of search outcome, while Google carefully delineated what the user was looking for and what the advertisements were. The user rarely clicked into a site under a false pretense. This made both the users and advertisers happy.

    Google has grown so big because it is good. Unlike operating systems which users can't easily switch from one to another, search engines have no hook on users. If they don't like Google, they can simply change the URL to another with no legacy baggage. There is no easier way to jump out of Google's ship. You can't punish a winner just because the losers are not good enough. It is unfair either to complain about the winner for being self interest. After all, in a competition, there is no rule that the winner has to help out competitors. The only time when the government should get involved in a free market is when the consumer's interest is hurt by a monopoly. I see no sign that it is the case with Google.

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