Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

Google Rejects Claim It Urged Think Tank to Fire Vocal Critic

  • Barry Lynn praised EC’s record fine against Google in June
  • New America think tank said it wasn’t pressured to fire Lynn

Google rejected the claims of a vocal critic on Wednesday who said the company had played a role in ousting him from a think tank after he openly praised the European Commission’s decision to fine the tech giant in June.

“We don’t agree with every group 100 percent of the time, and while we sometimes respectfully disagree, we respect each group’s independence, personnel decisions, and policy perspectives,” said Riva Sciuto, a spokeswoman for the Alphabet Inc. unit, referring more broadly to groups that Google funds.

Google’s statement came in response to a report in The New York Times that the company had complained to New America, a liberal think tank funded by the company, about Barry Lynn, the head of its antitrust program, after he congratulated the EC on the record $2.7 billion fine and urged U.S. regulators to follow suit. Lynn, in an interview with the Times, said that New America’s head, Anne-Marie Slaughter, was giving in to pressure from Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt.

Slaughter said in a statement that the claim “is absolutely false.” The group decided to “terminate” Lynn after “repeated refusal to adhere to New America’s standards of openness and institutional collegiality,” she said, adding that they had been working to spin off Lynn’s Open Markets group as an independent program “to preserve his leadership, keep the program together, and maintain a strong relationship with New America.”

Sarah Miller, a spokeswoman for the newly independent Open Markets group, said in an interview that Lynn’s 10-person team had been told two days after the public statement on the EC’s fine to resign within two months.

"We have a lot of respect for New America and the fine scholarship that goes on there," Miller said in a follow-up emailed statement. "It is sad that they were bullied by Google into this action, but we think that this is a good illustration of the power Google wields and the perils of monopoly."

The friction comes at a precarious time for Google. In addition to the June fine, which capped off a multi-year legal battle, Google said on Tuesday it would comply with EU demands to change its shopping product searches that regulators deemed anti-competitive. European authorities have two other ongoing cases against Google over whether it is abusing its market position with Android and advertising technology.

In the U.S., Google has largely evaded antitrust scrutiny. However, a small chorus of lawmakers and critics -- on both the right and left -- have raised questions over the company’s stranglehold on web search. And, in right-wing policy circles, the company became a fresh target after dismissing a male engineer who criticized the company’s diversity policies and accused it of silencing conservatives.

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