Story at-a-glance -
- Robert Epstein is a Harvard trained psychologist who has exposed how Google is manipulating public opinion through their search engine so they can change the results of elections and many other important areas
- His research shows how Google is using new techniques of manipulation that have never existed before in human history. If this weren’t bad enough, these tools are ephemeral and leave no paper trail of their devious behavior
- According to Epstein’s calculations, Google can shift 15 million votes leading up to the upcoming U.S. presidential 2020 election
- Because Google has become and everyday tool that's used for more than 90% of searches worldwide, the company has likely determined the outcomes of 25% of the national elections in the world
- Search suggestions — shown in a drop-down menu when you begin to type a search term — is another powerful manipulation tool capable of turning a 50/50 split among undecided voters into a 90/10 split, with no one having the slightest idea that they've been manipulated
Google's powers pose three specific threats to society:
1. They're a surveillance agency with significant yet hidden surveillance powers. As noted by Epstein:
"The search engine … Google Wallet, Google Docs, Google Drive, YouTube, these are surveillance platforms. In other words, from their perspective, the value these tools have is they give them more information about you. Surveillance is what they do."
2. They're a censoring agency with the ability to restrict or block access to websites across the internet, thus deciding what people can and cannot see. They even have the ability to block access to entire countries and the internet as a whole.
The most crushing problem with this kind of internet censorship is that you don't know what you don't know. If a certain type of information is removed from search, and you don't know it should exist somewhere, you'll never go looking for it. And, when searching for information online, how would you know that certain websites or pages have been removed from the search results in the first place? The answer is, you don't.
For example, Google has been investing in DNA repositories for quite a long time, and are adding DNA information to our profiles. According to Epstein, Google has taken over the national DNA repository, but articles about that — which he has cited in his own writings — have all vanished.
3. They have the power to manipulate public opinion through search rankings and other means.
"To me, that's the scariest area," Epstein says, "because Google is shaping the opinions, thinking, beliefs, attitudes, purchases and votes of billions of people around the world without anyone knowing that they're doing so … and perhaps even more shocking, without leaving a paper trail for authorities to trace.
They're using new techniques of manipulation that have never existed before in human history and they are for the most part, subliminal … but they don't produce tiny shifts.
They produce enormous shifts in people's thinking, very rapidly. Some of the techniques I've discovered are among the largest behavioral effects ever discovered in the behavioral sciences."
While surveillance is Google's primary business, their revenue — which exceeds $130 billion a year — comes almost exclusively from advertising. All that personal information you've provided them through their various products is sold to advertisers looking for a specific target audience.
How Google Can Shift Your Perception Without Your Knowledge
Epstein's controlled, randomized, double-blind and counterbalanced experiments have revealed a number of different ways in which Google can shift public perception. The first effect he discovered is called SEME, which stands for search engine manipulation effect. For a full description of the basic experiment used to identify this effect, please listen to the interview.
In summary, the aim of his experiment was to see whether search results biased toward a particular political candidate would be capable of shifting users' political opinion and leanings.
"I had predicted, when we first did this, that we would get a shift," Epstein says, "because … people do trust higher ranked search results, and of course we had biased the search results so that, if in that first group, someone was clicking on a high-ranking search result, that would connect them to a webpage which made one candidate look much better than the other …
I predicted we could get a shift in voting preferences of 2% to 3%. I was way off. We got … a shift of 48%, which I thought must be an error because that's crazy …
I should note that in almost all of our experiments, especially those early ones, we deliberately used undecided voters. That's the key. You can't easily push the opinions or voting preferences of people who are partisan, who are strongly committed to one party or another, but people who are undecided, those are the people who are very vulnerable. In our experiments, we always find a way to use undecided voters.
In these early experiments, the way we guaranteed that our voters were undecided was by using people from the U.S. as our participants, but the election we chose was the 2010 election for the prime minister of Australia.
They're real candidates, a real election, real search results, real webpages, and of course, because our participants were from the U.S. they were not familiar with the candidates.
In fact, that's why, before they do the search, we get this almost perfect 50/50 split regarding who they're going to vote for, because they don't know these candidates. The information they're getting from the search, that, presumably, is why we get a shift."
Edited by Thoth101, 26 July 2020 - 02:28 AM.