A network of academics on Google’s payroll just so happens to churn out “independent research” friendly to their sugar daddy’s corporate goals. But two-thirds of the time you wouldn’t know it, according to the Campaign for Accountability….
Instead of providing a dispassionate critique of Silicon Valley, academics viewed it as a chance to expand their domains. The early noughties saw a proliferation of “cyberlaw” departments and “internet institutes” only too keen to take corporate funding from technology companies. This was a shrewd investment – it has helped now-dominant internet platforms set the agenda.
Academics prominent in today’s corporate-backed net neutrality protest include Stanford Law School’s Barbara van Schewick and lawyer Marvin Ammori, who runs “Fight For The Future”. Both, the GTP said, are indirectly funded by Google….
Although all large corporations lobby and fund academic research, Silicon Valley is unique in funding not only thinktanks but also ersatz “civil society” groups (such as Fight For The Future), which then manufacture a synthetic “grassroots” legitimacy for a policy issue. The phenomenon of “slacktivism” or “clicktivism” makes use of low-cost, low-risk tools to generate apparent support for lightweight causes (“save the internet”).
This means that the corporate puppet master can work academics to create and promote an issue, and then deploy fake “citizen” groups to generate the impression of popular support for its position. Although sometimes it’s hard to tell the slacktivists from the academics.
[Editor Charlie sez: More on Google Academics, Inc.]
Google has been quietly making a push to influence public policy — by dangling cash in front of academics.
The tech giant has paid researchers and professors from universities around the country stipends of $5,000 to $400,000 for dozens of research papers to help the company battle against regulators, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Some of the papers, which Google uses to influence government officials, don’t disclose that the company funded them.
University of Illinois law professor Paul Heald said he got $18,830 from Google for a project on copyrights — but his 2012 paper failed to mention the tech behemoth’s involvement.
“Oh, wow. No, I didn’t. That’s really bad,” he told the newspaper, adding that Google didn’t influence his work. “That’s purely oversight.”
Global takedown orders with no limiting principle are indeed scary. But Canada’s order has a limiting principle. As long as there is room for Google to say to Canada (or France), “Your order will put us in direct and significant violation of U.S. law,” the order is not a limitless assertion of extraterritorial jurisdiction. In the instance that a service provider identifies a conflict of laws, the state should listen. Under longstanding conflicts of laws principles, a court would need to weigh the conflicting and legitimate governments’ interests at stake. The Canadian court was eager to undertake that comity analysis, but it couldn’t do so because the necessary ingredient was missing: there was no conflict of laws.
Google’s response to this sort of regime, as Daphne Keller points out, is that it would require them to identify potential conflicts of laws. I’ll leave it for another time to address whether such an extraordinarily wealthy company can manage the heavy burden of determining whether it can comply with a given legal order… but I suppose you can guess what I think.
And the EC find doesn’t even include a penalty for YouTube’s monopoly…
Google shareholders won’t be phased by the EU’s $2.7 billion fine against the company for competition abuses related to its shopping business, Elevation Partners co-founder Roger McNamee told CNBC on Tuesday.
“As a shareholder of Google you’re looking at this and saying: ‘We won again,'” McNamee said.
The venture capitalist spoke hours after EU regulators fined Google a record 2.4 billion euros ($2.7 billion), ruling that the search-engine giant violated antitrust rules for its online shopping practices.Google said it will consider appealing the decision to the highest court in Europe.
“Google, Facebook, Amazon are increasingly just super-monopolies, especially Google and Facebook. The share of the markets they operate in is literally on the same scale that Standard Oil had … more than 100 years ago — with the big differences that their reach is now global, not just within a single country,” he said on “Squawk Alley.”
The fine is not large enough to change Google’s behavior, he added. “The only thing that will change it is regulations that actually say you can or can’t do something.”
A little over 20 years ago, Grateful Dead lyricist John Perry Barlow penned a manifesto that served as the basic blueprint for Silicon Valley cyber-libertarian ideology for two decades. Premised on the notion that the Internet (capitalized here since Barlow definitely treated it as a space rather than as a tool for communication), freed from government interference and the application of laws, would produce a more perfect society in which disputes would be resolved through dialogue rather than force or mandate, he famously wrote in his 1996 Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace….While it may have been forgivable in 1996 to be unable to accurately foresee the role of the internet, it is unforgivable in 2017 to pretend that this is an accurate reflection of the world we inhabit…An internet of Backpage, of ISIS recruitment, of cyber-bullying, of phishing, of ransomware and revenge porn, of cyber-espionage, of trafficking in counterfeit and pirate content. Achieving an internet that captures its potential to enhance social, cultural and economic well-being requires more than self-governance, and is predicated on the technology neutral application of laws to internet-based conduct.
Fortunately, governments, policy makers and many non-governmental organizations are increasingly aware that it is long past time to jettison the baggage of Barlow’s cyber-libertarianism. In furtherance of this understanding, governments around the world have taken action to ensure the application of law to online behavior, all of which brings us around to the [now buried] headline—the recent decision of the Canadian Supreme Court in Google v. Equustek.
Google, channeling Barlow’s “we are everywhere and nowhere,” challenged the right of Canadian courts to issue an injunction that had effect in jurisdictions other than Canada. The Canadian Supreme Court quickly dispelled this, holding that: “Where it is necessary to ensure the injunction’s effectiveness, a court can grant an injunction enjoining conduct anywhere in the world. The problem in this case is occurring online and globally. The Internet has no borders — its natural habitat is global. The only way to ensure that the interlocutory injunction attained its objective was to have it apply where Google operates—globally.” In four short sentences, the Supreme Court of Canada turned Barlow’s “absence of borders” into a mandate for taking technology-neutral action in defense of its territorial sovereignty.
The Supreme Court of Canada released a landmark decision today ruling that Canadian common law courts have the jurisdiction to make global de-indexing orders against search engines like Google. In so, ordering, the Court in Google Inc. v. Equustek Solutions Inc., 2017 SCC 34 underlined the breadth of courts’ jurisdiction to make orders against search engines to stem illegal activities on the Internet including the sale of products manufactured using trade secrets misappropriated from innovative companies.
The decision arose from a lower court decision that ordered Google to block websites that were selling goods that violated the trade secrets of the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs obtained a default order against the defendants. But, the defendants continued to sell the offending goods over the Internet. The plaintiffs, unable to enforce their order, asked for Google’s help in blocking the websites. Google voluntarily de-indexed specific URL’s requested by the plaintiffs, but this “whac-a-mole” process was ineffective. When Google refused to de-index the offending websites from its search results, the plaintiffs brought a motion against Google for interim relief requiring Google to de-index the websites from all of its search engines worldwide.
Over Google’s objections, in Equustek Solutions Inc. v. Jack 2014 BCSC 1063 Madam Justice Fenlon of the British Columbia Supreme Court granted the injunction. Google subsequently applied for leave to appeal the decision to the British Columbia Court of Appeal and for an order staying the enforcement of the order. In Equustek Solutions Inc. v. Google Inc., 2014 BCCA 295, the court granted Google leave to appeal the decision but refused Google’s application to stay enforcement of the injunction order. Google’s appeal was later dismissed by the Court of Appeal in Equustek Solutions Inc. v. Google Inc., 2015 BCCA 265. For a summary of the prior proceedings, see Barry Sookman, Google ordered by BC court to block websites: Equustek Solutions Inc. v. Jack.
The Supreme Court of Canada, in a seven to two majority decision written by Justice Abella, affirmed the decisions below.
Google had argued that courts had no jurisdiction to make orders against it as a non-party to the litigation. It argued that any order against it should have been limited to the google.ca search engine. It also contended that the worldwide order would violate the principle of comity and rights of freedom of expression. The Court rejected each of these arguments and found that the balance of convenience favoured granting the order.
Google has been hit with a record antitrust fine of €2.42bn (£2.1bn) from the European Union today for promoting its own shopping search service over those of smaller rivals.
The regulator found that Google had abused its market dominance as a search engine “by giving an illegal advantage to another Google product, its comparison shopping service,” it said.
European regulators gave the tech giant 90 days to stop its illegal activities or face fines of up to 5 per cent of the average daily worldwide turnover of parent company Alphabet. That currently amounts to around $14m a day.
The commission has the power to fine Google’s parent up to 10 per cent of its annual revenue, which was more than $90bn (£70.8bn).
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules… It has denied other companies the chance to compete on their merits and to innovate, and most importantly it has denied European consumers the benefits of competition, genuine choice and innovation.”
“Most importantly, today’s decision shows that in Europe companies must compete on the merits regardless of whether they are online, the high street, and whether they are European or not.”
She said since she had taken the helm as commissioner in 2014, she has given high priority to the case. During its probe, she said the commission sifted through terabytes of data, the equivalent of 1.7 billion search queries: “It’s a lot of data and it is of course needed because our decision has to be based on firm evidence. “
She said she has no reason to believe that Google will not comply, but said the commission intended to monitor Google’s compliance closely. “This means this issue will remain on our desk for some time. “
This decision was a very long time in coming–which means of course that Google have managed to operate illegally since at least 2010 with this fine hanging in the air (see my 2014 post “The Delay’s The Thing: April Fools and the Google Antitrust Case at the European Commission“).
Not surprisingly, the Computer and Communications Industry Association came out with one of those innovation based thingys defending Google, a fellow member of the MIC Coalition cartel.
Obviously more on this to come, but the real question is when will the EU go after Google for YouTube.
If you ever wondered just how arrogant the YouTube negotiators really are, realize that these geniuses decided that it would be a good time to alienate the WIN and Merlin labels–based in…where was that again…oh yes…Europe…right in the middle of the EU antitrust investigation. And how did they alienate the indies? By doing pretty much the EXACT SAME THING that Google was accused of doing in search–abusing their dominant position to benefit themselves.
To be continued…