For years, Robert Epstein and his colleagues have been conducting numerous experiments in the US and India in order to determine whether search results can impact people’s political opinions. Now, we are beginning to find answers.
Today, a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology in California and the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today told us of an insidious and pervasive new form of mind control that search results have transformed into – and of course, they mean Google.
Epstein shows that around 50 percent of our clicks go to the top two items on the first page of results and over 90 percent of our clicks go to the 10 items listed. Thus, it is very important how Google decides which of the billions of web pages to include in our search results and how to rank them.
Surprisingly, Epstein found that the proportion of people favoring the skewed search engine’s top-ranked candidate increased by over 48 percent. Additionally, 75 percent of the subjects in the study did not know that they were viewing biased search rankings.
In another study that involved more than 2,000 people from all 50 US states. In that experiment, the shift in voting preferences induced by the researchers was 37 percent, and as high as 80 percent in some demographic groups.
According to the Pew Research Center. Google has a near-monopoly on internet searches in the US with 83 percent of Americans specifying Google as the search engine they use most often. If Google did favor one candidate in an election, its impact on undecided voters could easily decide the election’s outcome.
So what if Google decided that it was in the best interests of all concerned to do whatever it could to help us select our next president? Epstein said, “If Google set about to fix an election, it could first dip into its massive database of personal information to identify just those voters who are undecided. Then it could, day after day, send customized rankings favoring one candidate to just those people. One advantage of this approach is that it would make Google’s manipulation extremely difficult for investigators to detect.”
Remember that in the 2012 presidential election, Google and its top execs contributed more than $800,000 to Barack Obama and just $37,000 to Mitt Romney. Is it possible that they would use more than just their money?
I’m skeptical. I don’t think that Google would act so nefariously. Plus, Silicon Valley tends to be full of free-market Libertarians. However, I’d love to hear what your opinion is – please share below.