‘Remember When Google’s Thing Was DO NO EVIL?’: Report Reveals How Internet Giant Funds Climate Villains

Oct 11, 2019 by

“For the last damn time: Big. Tech. Is. Not. Your. Friend.”

Google #DontFundEvil

Activists held a rally during Google’s annual shareholders meeting in Mountain View, California on May 14, 2014. The various groups—including Public Citizen’s U. S. Chamber Watch, Forecast the Facts, Eviction Free San Francisco, and Common Cause California—were calling on Google to lead on climate change, increase political spending transparency, and treat its workers with respect. (Photo: John Green/MediaNews Group/Bay Area News via Getty Images)

Google, whose unofficial company motto was once “Don’t be evil,” counts major deniers of the climate crisis among the groups “that receive the most substantial contributions” from the tech giant’s U.S. Government Affairs and Public Policy team.

“It ought to be disqualifying to support what is primarily a phony climate denying front group. It ought to be unacceptable given how wicked they have been.”
—Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse

As part of a Guardian series on “the polluters,” the newspaper reported Friday on the biannually updated list (pdf) of “politically-engaged trade associations, independent third-party organizations, and other tax-exempt groups” that Google helps fund.

According to The Guardian:

Among hundreds of groups the company has listed on its website as beneficiaries of its political giving are more than a dozen organizations that have campaigned against climate legislation, questioned the need for action, or actively sought to roll back Obama-era environmental protections.

The list includes the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a conservative policy group that was instrumental in convincing the Trump administration to abandon the Paris agreement and has criticized the White House for not dismantling more environmental rules.

CEI isn’t the only group that Google has funded which promotes unscientific takes on the climate, the newspaper noted:

Google is also listed as a sponsor for an upcoming annual meeting of the State Policy Network (SPN), an umbrella organization that supports conservative groups including the Heartland Institute, a radical anti-science group that has chided the teenage activist Greta Thunberg for “climate delusion hysterics.”

SPN members recently created a “climate pledge” website that falsely states “our natural environment is getting better” and “there is no climate crisis.”

Other organizations highlighted in the report for receiving money from Google include the American Conservative Union, the American Enterprise Institute, Americans for Tax Reform, the Cato Institute the Mercatus Center, the Heritage Foundation, and Heritage Action.

A Google spokesperson said the company contributes to groups that support “strong technology policies” and “we’re hardly alone among companies that contribute to organizations while strongly disagreeing with them on climate policy.”

“We’ve been extremely clear that Google’s sponsorship doesn’t mean that we endorse that organization’s entire agenda,” Google’s spokesperson added. “Our position on climate change is similarly clear. Since 2007, we have operated as a carbon neutral company and for the second year in a row, we reached 100 percent renewable energy for our global operations.”

Despite Google’s attempted defenses, climate experts and activists expressed frustration with the company’s decisions to give money to such groups.

Co-founder of the global advocacy group 350.org Bill McKibben accused Google and other funders of climate deniers of engaging in “functional greenwashing.”

“Sometimes I’ll talk to companies and they will be going on and on about their renewable server farm or natural gas delivery, and I say thank you, but what we really need is for your lobbying shop in Washington to put serious muscle behind it,” McKibben told The Guardian. “And they never do.”

Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), a vocal advocate of climate action on Capitol Hill, said that “it ought to be disqualifying to support what is primarily a phony climate denying front group. It ought to be unacceptable given how wicked they have been.”

“What all of corporate America should be doing is saying if you are a trade organization or lobby group and you are interfering on climate, we are out. Period,” added Whitehouse.

Some readers who weighed on Twitter also criticized the company. The consumer watchdog group Public Citizen declared, “For the last damn time: Big. Tech. Is. Not. Your. Friend.”

Others invoked the “Don’t be evil” motto that Google officially removed from its employee code of conduct in the spring of 2018—which, at the time, prompted critics to conclude that as far the as the Big Tech firm is concerned, “evil is fine now.”

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