Google’s Astroturf Army of Net Neutrality Phonies

We’ve long suspected that Silicon Valley monopolies like Google were gaming net neutrality grassroots “support” with phony astroturf, phony studies and phony advocacy. And now comes the proof.

In a remarkable report released today, the Wall Street Journal exposes hundreds of academics at some of the most prestigious universities and colleges in the U.S., who have gladly been feeding at the Google slop trough to push phony research supporting Google’s positions on public policy issues.

Of course, this comes on the heels of reports last year that Google virtually owned the Obama White House, meeting with White House officials more than 427 times during Obama’s two terms. The crony relationship between Obama and Google was so brazen in fact that more than 258 people moved back and forth between the Google/Obama Administration revolving door during Obama’s two terms.

Today’s Wall Street Journal investigation adds a staggering new level of deception and duplicitousness to how Google operates in the shadows of academia to push mendacious propaganda disguised as legitimate academic research. And nowhere is their slight-of-hand more evident than in the net neutrality fight.

While the Wall Street Journal piece didn’t highlight net neutrality specifically, a separate report referenced in the Wall Street Journal story by an outfit called the Google Transparency Project sheds new light on how Google manipulated research by paying off the leader of the 2015 net neutrality movement… former Free Press general counsel Marvin Ammori.

Marvin Ammori


Described as a “scholar that straddles the lines between Google consultant, an academic directly funded by Google, and someone who receives indirect financial support from Google-funded universities and third-party groups,” Ammori led the net neutrality fight in 2015.

In a glowing 2015 piece in The Atlantic, Ammori and Co. were portrayed as a “ragtag band of activists” outmatched by the behemoth ISP’s. As the Google Transparency Report and Wall Street Journal stories highlight though, Google monopoly dollars were flowing like wine – millions of dollars in fact — for phony studies published by bought off academics to push Google’s view of net neutrality and other issues.

Ammori, who also served as the general counsel to phony astroturf group Free Press until 2010, was roundly criticized for his corporate shillery by Mark Cooper of the Consumer Federation of America: “He wants to be a public interest lawyer, but he also wants to represent private clients, and the way that he’s gone about it has made it hard for anyone to trust him again.”

And he wasn’t the only Google academic shill pushing net neutrality: Nicholas Economides with the New York Stern School of Business published Google-funded studies supporting net neutrality and also runs a nonprofit that doles out money for hundreds of academic papers a year according to the Google Transparency Report. Google “evangelist” Vint Cerf sits on the board of Economides’ non-profit and the company is listed as a “generous financial supporter.” A database compiled by the Google Transparency Project group lists 27 academic papers on net neutrality funded by Google.

But Google’s behind-the-scenes funding and financing of net neutrality astroturfers doesn’t end with phony academic studies. In fact, the entire franchise, from top to bottom appears to be paid for by either Silicon Valley or Soros money. Groups like Free Press sniff that they are untainted by Google money, while their general counsel and leader of the 2015 net neutrality “grassroots” campaign was serving as a Google consultant and they were lining their pockets with millions from Soros.

Others like Fight for the Future count Soros, virtual private network (VPN) companies, and even Google’s Derek Slater as financial supporters. Slater incidentally, was the Googler who built Google’s 7 million+ database of activists by “coordinating closely with third-party groups” like… Fight for the Future. (As an aside, dollars to donuts that when activists sign up for Fight for the Future astroturf campaigns, they will eventually end up in Google’s privacy-snarfing activist database.)

Tomorrow, Free Press, Fight for the Future and dozens of other Soros and Google-funded groups are once again rolling out the astroturf to hold a “Day of Action,” in opposition to the FCC’s rollback of the government takeover of our internet.

What today’s news makes abundantly clear is that Google and Silicon Valley have been behind not only the net neutrality astroturf, but have now so corrupted our institutions of higher learning that hundreds of academics at universities around the country are publishing fake studies that toe the line of their Mountain View funders.

If there’s any silver lining it may be this: The creative #fakenews memes that have so entertained us on social media the past few weeks may have a new competitor…#fakeresearch.