Technology giant Google has donated a “substantial” amount of money to some of the most notorious climate deniers in Washington, DC, even as it claims to support the political battle against the climate crisis, The Guardian reported on Friday.
More than a dozen organisations listed on the company’s website as beneficiaries of its political donations have campaigned against climate legislation, questioned the need for action, or actively attempted to dismantle Obama-era environmental protections, the newspaper added.
One of the companies listed by Google is Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative policy organisation that helped convince the administration of President Donald Trump to take the US out of the Paris climate agreement. It has also criticised the White House for not removing more environmental rules.
Even though Google said it was disappointed by the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris accord, it has not stopped supporting the think tank. Google is also sponsoring an upcoming annual meeting of the State Policy Network, an umbrella organisation of conservative groups that includes the Heartland Institute. The institute espouses anti-science positions and has criticised activist Greta Thunberg for “climate delusion hysterics”. In a recent “climate pledge” they falsely claimed that the environment is getting better and “there is no climate crisis”.
However, Google has defended its actions, saying its “collaboration” with organisations such as CEI “does not mean we endorse the organisations’ entire agenda”. People close to Google claimed the company makes these donations in an attempt to influence conservative legislators, and to help finance the deregulatory agenda that these groups stand for.
An unidentified Google spokesperson told the newspaper that the company gives money to groups across the political spectrum that lobby for strong technology policies. “We are hardly alone among companies that contribute to organisations while strongly disagreeing with them on climate policy,” the spokesperson added. Amazon has also sponsored a CEI event.
In 2014, the former chairperson of the internet giant, Eric Schmidt, had said the company would stop giving money to these ultra-conservative groups. “The consensus within the company was that that was some sort of mistake and so we’re trying to not do that in the future,” Schmidt told NPR. Climate crisis deniers were making the world “a much worse place”, he added, and Google “should not be aligned with such people”.
Google’s support for these groups has to do with its efforts to keep conservatives on its side in order to protect a provision of a law that treated internet companies as distributors of content and not publishers, and thereby providing them legal immunity for third party comments, The Guardian pointed out. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act shields companies such as Google and Facebook from libel laws that can often spell trouble for other companies, such as newspapers.
This is not the first time Google has been in the news for its association with organisations and people who question the science behind climate crisis. Last month, Buzzfeed News reported that the internet company was promoting climate change denialism on Discover, a feed of customised content for individual users that appears as a dedicated tab on Google phones, on the Google search app, and on the Google mobile homepage.
Now, follow and debate the day’s most significant stories on Scroll Exchange.