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Google hits back after White House influence claims

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Google HQ

Google has issue a staunch defence of its regular visits to the White House following a Wall Street Journal report claiming to shed light on the tech giant’s alleged influence in Washington.

Earlier this week, the WSJ inferred Google had used its close ties to the Obama administration to sway a Federal Trade Commission anti-trust investigation in its favour.

During its reporting, the Journal claimed Google employees had visited the White House 230 times - approximately once a week - during the course of the President’s tenure.

Now Google, in a blog post (via VentureBeat) entitled “Really, Rupert?” (referring of course to WSJ owner Rupert Murdoch) has taken umbrage with the claims and sought to justify the frequent visits. The firm says 33 of the visits were from those not employed by Google at the time, so what of the other 197?

Well, over a dozen were for YouTube interviews with Obama, five were by a Google engineer attempting to fix the botched Healthcare.gov website, while several others were attended by other tech big hitters, Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL.

"The meetings we did have were not to discuss the antitrust investigation,” said Rachel Whetstone, Google’s SVP of Communications and Policy.

“In fact, we seem to have discussed everything but, including patent reform, STEM education, self-driving cars, mental health, advertising, Internet censorship, smart contact lenses, civic innovation, R&D, cloud computing, trade and investment, cyber security, energy efficiency and our workplace benefit policies.”

Whetstone also went on to point out Microsoft, the chief complainant in the anti-trust investigation against Google visited the White House 270 times; more often than Google.

Read more: Apple users free to sue Google over Safari privacy breach

Earlier this week, the WSJ had claimed: “Google’s knack for getting in the room with important government officials is gaining new relevance as scrutiny grows over how the company avoided being hit by the FTC with a potentially damaging antitrust lawsuit.

“As the federal government was wrapping up its antitrust investigation of Google Inc., company executives had a flurry of meetings with top officials at the White House and Federal Trade Commission, the agency running the probe.”

Where do you stand? Do you think Google has too much political influence? Let us know your thoughts below.

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