It's over a year away, but the 2016 presidential campaign is in full swing. Your vote matters! But how you decide could be decided by someone at Google.
According to new research, Google's search algorithm could influence undecided voters by up to 80%! Will Google wield that power fairly, or will it rig the election?
Robert Epstein, a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, has been researching Google's potential for election rigging, and shared his findings in a Politico article.
"Google’s search algorithm can easily shift the voting preferences of undecided voters by 20 percent or more—up to 80 percent in some demographic groups—with virtually no one knowing they are being manipulated, according to experiments I conducted recently with Ronald E. Robertson," he writes.
In one of Epstein's experiments, people were separated into three groups. They were asked whether they liked and trusted two candidates, and which they would vote for. Then the three groups were presented with searches linked to real stories - one group each favoring one of the candidates and one favoring neither. Their search results were the same, just with the results in a different order. After the participants read the stories, "On all measures, opinions shifted in the direction of the candidate who was favored in the rankings," Epstein writes.
In another experiment, Epstein found that 80% of moderate Republicans could be swayed by search rankings. Scary thought!
Epstein has basically proven that Google could swing elections, if it decided to do so. Of course, the company's reputation would take a serious hit, so it's not likely. But Epstein concludes that the only answer to the problem is government regulation of search rankings.