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Google has been paying academic researchers who write favorable papers, report says

  • Google has been paying academics to work on projects that might support its battles with regulators, The Wall Street Journal said
  • At least a dozen professors have accepted money from Google
  • At least one professor didn't disclose the Google cash

Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks at the Google I/O developer conference on May 17, 2017.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks at the Google I/O developer conference on May 17, 2017.

Google has paid researchers and academics who have worked on projects that support the company's positions in battles with regulators, a report in The Wall Street Journal said on Tuesday.

Google's practice might not sound all that different from lobbying, but The Wall Street Journal revealed that some of the professors, including a Paul Heald from the University of Illinois, didn't disclose Google's payments. Heald is one of "more than a dozen" such professors who accepted money from Google, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Google has reason to try to get as many folks on its side as it can. The company has faced almost constant scrutiny for its business practices, most recently a record antitrust fine of $2.7 billion in the European Union. Tens of thousands of dollars to professors here and there could have helped it avoid that fine, and others.

"Ever since Google was born out of Stanford's Computer Science department, we've maintained strong relations with universities and research institutes, and have always valued their independence and integrity," Google told CNBC. "We're happy to support academic researchers across computer science and policy topics, including copyright, free expression and surveillance, and to help amplify voices that support the principles of an open internet. And unlike our competitors who fund the Campaign for Accountability, we expect and require our grantees to disclose their funding. "

Leslie Miller, Google's director of public policy, addressed the issue in a blog post.

"Campaign for Accountability released a report about our funding of academic research," Miller said. "It claims to list hundreds of papers we've "in some way funded." The report is highly misleading. For example, the report attributes to Google any work that was supported by any organization to which we belong or have ever donated (such as CCIA)."

"Our support for the principles underlying an open internet is shared by many academics and institutions who have a long history of undertaking research on these topics—across important areas like copyright, patents, and free expression," Miller added.

Read more of Miller's response.