The increasingly bitter attacks by the press establishment on internet firms like Facebook and Google have now boiled over, after the Murdoch empire tried its best to smear academics over their research connections with Google. The publication of choice for setting this particular hare running is the supposedly upmarket Wall Street Journal, once again showing that once Rupe is in charge, journalistic standards take a back seat.
So it was that the WSJ ran its attack on those who accept Google funding, no matter what the nature of the research involved, and with no thought that much of the research either does not need to pass judgment on Google one way or the other, or that much that does is often critical of the firm. The WSJ has also echoed an organisation called the Campaign for Accountability, whose only known significant funder is Oracle Corp.
From the WSJ, the attack on Google has moved to the Times, the excuse given being that some Google funds are paid to researchers working in Britain. And from the Times, with the certainty of night following day, the attack has moved to the Sun, which has been running attack pieces and scare stories against Google for some months now.
The Sun’s attacks have been universally lame, from claiming criminals were using Google Maps (if only they’d stuck to an old OS one inch to a mile one, eh?), to accusing the company of cashing in on “sick videos” (as if), and telling readers that Google had installed a “panic mode” in their smartphones. Now the paper was running the academic smear.
Under the heading “SHADY SEARCH TERMS”, readers are told “Google paid academics MILLIONS for research to sway influence towards internet giant … Google has allegedly paid academics MILLIONS for research to sway influence towards the internet giant … The internet giant is said to have funded research at Brit unis including Bournemouth, Sussex, Oxford and Edinburgh”. But where does this information originate?
“A watchdog has claimed the tech firm financed hundreds of pieces of work into policy areas where changes could have cost it a fortune”. What watchdog? We aren’t told.
But we are told “Emails suggest the authors, who received between $5,000 and $400,000, may even have shared papers with Google for consideration prior to publication, The Times reports”. But you have to look at the Mail’s version to see the WSJ mentioned.
So the Murdoch Sun in the UK fails to mention the WSJ, and neither it, nor the Mail, have mentioned the Campaign for Accountability. Nor have they given even a mention to the responses to the CfA and WSJ claims. So I will.
Under the heading “Google: No, we don't fund biased research. And just look who's paying our accusers”, we learn “Google's director of public policy Leslie Miller said the CfA's report was ‘highly misleading’ and accused it of inflating the numbers by attributing funding to Google when it actually came from associations to which Google belongs”.
Professor Dan Crane has gone further: “The WSJ report was factually accurate insofar as it reported that I declined Google funding, but gives the misimpression that I am a critic of people who do accept Google funding. The Campaign for Accountability report acknowledged that I declined Google money, but nonetheless presented me as operating in an ethical grey zone by even speaking with Google. Its report was sloppy, highly misleading, and scurrilous”. His conclusion is to the point.
“I can understand that the Campaign was trying to make Google look bad, not me, but biased, unfair, incomplete, and nefariously suggestive reporting of this kind does not redound well to their reputation”. He was not alone.
The Chronicle of Higher Education talked of “a handful of scholars who told The Chronicle on Wednesday that they felt the Campaign for Accountability … had included them unfairly in its list of academics who had received money from Google in connection to research that could be used to defend the company’s business practices”.
And, to no surprise, continued “The same data were partly used in a report by The Wall Street Journal that covered similar ground. The academics who spoke to The Chronicle said they felt their past or current connections to Google had been exaggerated or, in some cases, erroneously reported”. Then came the question of the CfA’s funding.
“Ms [Leslie] Miller also criticized the group as failing to identify its funding sources. [Daniel] Stevens [of the CfA] told The Chronicle that the nonprofit group didn’t disclose its funders. The Wall Street Journal described the organization as ‘an advocacy group that has campaigned against Google and receives funds from Google’s rivals, including Oracle Corp’”. Oracle Corporation. That’s a most interesting name.
Why so? Well, Oracle is the domain of Larry Ellison. Ellison and Rupert Murdoch go back a long way, at least as far as the mid-1990s, when Rupe came close to losing the tip of a finger in an incident while he was helping out as part of the crew on Ellison’s racing yacht the Sayonara. Murdoch was part of the Sayonara’s crew on at least one other occasion.
Long-term friends allied in their attack on a competitor? I’ll just leave that one there.