The Guardian has a breathless story today about the “dark forces” gunning for Google in Europe. The story points out the links between Microsoft and a group called the Initiative For A Competitive Online Marketplace, or ICOMP, which has been making noise to regulators and journalists about Google’s dominance in search.
The story says that Microsoft is ICOMP’s sole underwriter, and that Microsoft is responsible for picking ICOMP’s directors. It also says that ICOMP was one of the forces that inspired the EU to launch an investigation into Google last month.
This is neither new nor news.
As the columnist admits, the Wall Street Journal and The Observer both did stories about Microsoft’s connections to ICOMP in 2007. That’s three years ago.
What he doesn’t say is that this kind of influence by proxy is common practice in the technology industry. (And other industries too.) When Microsoft was under investigation by the EU in the early 2000s, a frequent name appearing on press releases and “friend of the court” filings was the European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS). That organisation is funded largely by Microsoft competitors who had a complaint in the case, including IBM, Oracle, Red Hat, Nokia, Opera, and RealNetworks.
Another one, the Association for Competitive Technology, rails consistently against legislation that it thinks would hurt the tech business. It’s funded by both Microsoft and Oracle, as well as eBay, Verisign, and many small systems integrators and smaller companies.
ICOMP doesn’t go out of its way to make clear that Microsoft is its main funder. But it’s not like some secret either: the bottom of every page on its public Web site says “ICOMP is funded by member contributions as well as sponsorship from Microsoft.” Do you recognise any of the other names on the membership list as huge global companies with billions of dollars to spend? No? That’s all you need to know.
There aren’t any dark forces at work here–just big businesses with lots of money at stake exercising their right in a democratic society to try and influence legislation and litigation. The best thing for journalists to do with these kinds of groups is to ignore them. Or pay them exactly the same amount of attention as any other corporate press release.
NOW WATCH: Tech Insider videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.