Thursday, August 31, 2017

Google-Critic Fired from Think Tank Funded by the Tech Giant

Rule No. 1 of think tank land: Don't mess with donors.   Rule No. 2?  Don't mess with donors.
Here is more from Kenneth Vogel of The New York Times:

In the hours after European antitrust regulators levied a record $2.7 billion fine against Google in late June, an influential Washington think tank learned what can happen when a wealthy tech giant is criticized.
The New America Foundation has received more than $21 million from Google; its parent company’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt; and his family’s foundation since the think tank’s founding in 1999. That money helped to establish New America as an elite voice in policy debates on the American left and helped Google shape those debates.
But not long after one of New America’s scholars posted a statement on the think tank’s website praising the European Union’s penalty against Google, Mr. Schmidt, who had been chairman of New America until 2016, communicated his displeasure with the statement to the group’s president, Anne-Marie Slaughter, according to the scholar.
The statement disappeared from New America’s website, only to be reposted without explanation a few hours later. But word of Mr. Schmidt’s displeasure rippled through New America, which employs more than 200 people, including dozens of researchers, writers and scholars, most of whom work in sleek Washington offices where the main conference room is called the “Eric Schmidt Ideas Lab.” The episode left some people concerned that Google intended to discontinue funding, while others worried whether the think tank could truly be independent if it had to worry about offending its donors.

The article goes on to give a number of juicy details about the firing of Barry Lynn, head of the think tank's Open Markets initiative.  Emails reportedly suggest that the head of New America wanted to exile the entire team of the Open Markets initiative (around 10 full-timers and unpaid fellows).

NYT reports that Lynn is now starting a stand-alone nonprofit with the same team to continue the work of the Open Markets initiative.  The new entity does not yet have a name, but it almost certainly will not be receiving any funding from Google.  However, the tech giant continues to fund New America.

Here is New America's response to the New York Times story.  Kenneth Vogel (author of the NYT piece) says it is inaccurate and demands a correction.

Here is what Zephr Teachout, who has been a Fellow at New America since 2014, has to say about the incident for the Washington Post.  Here is more in The Intercept (and even more).

Here is what Matthew Yglesias of Vox has to say.

Here is what The Intercept has to say.

Here is The Wall Street Journal's take.

David Sirota sums up the situation succinctly.

New America Fellow Jesse Eisenger: This is deeply troubling.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is now criticizing New America for firing Barry Lynn.

Here is an updated NYT piece from Kenneth Vogel on how New America is facing a big backlash from the firing.

Here is what WIRED has to say about the issue.

Charles Kolb says that the controversy illustrates the value of transparency.

A statement from the Open Markets team.

The Federalist: Bullying a leftist think tank pierces Google's carefully cultivated "don't be evil" image.

Dan Drezner: Nothing to see here.  Think tanks are poised for a comeback.  (And a response from James Jay Carafano and Mike Gonzales of Heritage).

Anne-Marie Slaughter: When the truth is messy and hard.

Former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO): Google-New America shows why nonprofits should reject corporate funding.

Economist: New America falls into a familiar trap.

Barry Lynn: "A slow, creeping consolidation of power by big money over thinks tanks in US."

New America Co-Chair: Google didn't prompt critics ouster.

The Weekly Standard: The Do-Not-Think Tank.

John Judis (in New Republic): The credible think tank is dead.

The Week: The suspicious firing of a Google critic.

Till Bruckner of Transparify: How funder pressures can torpedo the credibility of research.

Barry Lynn doubles down on anti-monopoly crusade after being fired from New America.