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Google defends contributions to climate change-denying think tanks

Google defends contributions to climate change-denying think tanks


The company says it’s not unusual

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A Google logo sits at the center of ominous concentric circles
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Google makes “substantial” donations to climate change-denying Washington think tanks, according to a new report from The Guardian on Friday. The revelation comes only a few weeks after Google announced its support for political action to fix the climate crisis.

Google contributes to conservative political organizations and lobbies that are in support of regulatory efforts that benefit the company. Defending the donations to organizations like the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) that were cited in the report, Google said that it might not endorse every policy position of an organization when it makes a contribution.

“We’re hardly alone”

“We’re hardly alone among companies that contribute to organisations while strongly disagreeing with them on climate policy,” a Google spokesperson told The Verge.

According to people at Google, The Guardian said that people at the company said that it makes these donations in hopes of influencing conservative lawmakers and pushing forward a deregulatory agenda, something that has become ever more important in recent months as Congress works to craft data privacy legislation.

In the past, CEI has taken tough stances in opposition to tech regulation and antitrust enforcement. Over the past year, Republican lawmakers have taken to criticizing tech platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google for being rigged in favor of Democrats, a position CEI has opposed before as well. 

In September, Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai announced that the company would make the “biggest corporate purchase” of renewable energy in history. The decision came only a day before Google employees were staged to walk out of work with other students and tech employees to draw corporate attention to the climate crisis. In a blog post, the strikers listed out their demands of the company, which included a call for it to cease from funding climate change-denying lobbyists and politicians. Google touts its stance in favor of climate action on its website as well.

“We believe the private sector, in partnership with policy leaders, must take bold steps and that we can do so in a way that leads to growth and opportunity,” Google’s SVP of technical infrastructure, Urs Hölzle, says on the site. “And we have a responsibility to do so — to our users and the environment.”

Update October 11th, 11:53AM ET: Clarified that CEI has supported the rights of Google and other tech platforms to enforce their content moderation policies how they choose, not the calls from conservatives alleging that the platforms are biased.