ICYMI: Academics backing Google in Supreme Court case benefited from tech giant
Tuesday, March 28, 2023
Gabe Kaminsky | Washington Examiner
Records show that some of the leading academic voices backing Google as part of a landmark Supreme Court case have personally benefited from the tech giant's influence over the years.
Nineteen internet law scholars signed on to a January amicus brief in Gonzalez v. Google, arguing to uphold Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a federal statute at the heart of the case shielding companies like Google from liability for content posted by users. The case is widely viewed as one that could reshape content moderation and speech online.
A Washington Examiner investigation found that several of the same legal scholars who signed on to the brief scored Google research funding, fellowships, and consulting gigs while maintaining other ties to the tech giant.
One person who signed the brief was Anupam Chander, a Georgetown University Law professor. Chander received funding from Google for 10 separate research papers between 2010 and 2016, according to the Tech Transparency Project, which "seeks to hold large technology companies accountable" and is a project of the Campaign for Accountability, a watchdog group. Scholars can receive around $200,000 from Google for papers, one source told the American Prospect in July 2022.
Another internet law scholar who signed the brief with Chander is Mailyn Fidler, a professor at the University of Nebraska College of Law.
Fidler has consulted for Google in the past, including in 2014 when she developed reports on European policy with regard to sex offender and criminal records access, according to her LinkedIn profile. Fidler also developed reports that year for Google on cloud computing to assist the company's policy advocacy efforts and, in 2013, consulted for the tech giant in connection to Google Glass, autonomous cars, and other issues.
Jane Bambauer, a law professor at the University of Arizona, also signed the internet law scholars brief. During the years 2012, 2014, and 2017, Bambauer was a Google fellow at the Privacy Law Salon in Miami, Florida, according to a copy of her resume. According to its website, the exclusive salon consists of two annual "closed-door" gatherings for chief product officers, consultants, and academics to discuss privacy and data security.
The ties have been slammed by watchdog groups and advocates involved in the case.
"The credibility of these individuals once they are beneficiaries of Google's largess is less than that it would be otherwise," Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, a conservative higher education advocacy group, told the Washington Examiner. "They may well believe what they're saying, but their ability to testify publicly to the righteousness of Google's cause is doubtful."
"What a surprise!" Michael Chamberlain, director of the ethics watchdog Protect the Public's Trust, told the Washington Examiner. "Some academics who Google has rewarded over the years may be attempting to sway the court to the benefit of Google. We hope their input will be based on policy analysis and not on a desire to keep the Google gravy train for academics running."
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