Lies, hidden agendas, and deception are sadly constantly lingering around in the world. The term “fake news” is a legitimate summary of a lot of the stories in today’s world. The expansion and ease of access to technology has never been higher. The world now runs on technology giving lightning fast results all the time. With this much use, it is easy to fall into the trap of manipulation.
“Search Engine Manipulation Effect” is a theory that psychologist Robert Epstein is heavily involved in. Epstein, who admitted that he was a supporter of Hillary Clinton in 2016, actually has some claims that are favored by Republicans. He claims that big search engines and websites, like Google and Facebook, manipulate voters. He claims that this manipulation can have an influence on undecided voters. Epstein thinks that it is enough to even cost Republicans elections. “He believes bias built into Google’s processes could have cost Republicans three California congressional districts in the last election” (Halper). While the aforementioned election was on a smaller scale, this could very well happen in a bigger election.
Epstein conducted a study looking at the searches of a select amount of undecided voters in areas where Democrats have recently been elected. Google presented more left leaning sources than the other search engines, Yahoo and Bing. It is possible that thousands of voters chose to vote for a Democratic candidate based on what their search results were on Google. To further explain his theory, Epstein “says the large readership that sites such as Breitbart receive should earn them more prominent Google exposure” (Halper). Epstein says this is a form of blacklisting.
Google has rejected Epstein’s work. Google “offered background material asserting that their algorithms are politically blind and respond to searches with news content based on its timeliness, relevance, and authoritativeness” (Halper).
Los Angeles Times put out an article about two years ago discussing ideas related to this issue. It went as far as to say that even employees of Facebook were upset about this bias. “Dozens of Facebook workers have joined an online group calling for more political diversity in an industry that’s overwhelmingly liberal” (Pierson). There is plenty of pushback against these types of claims, however.
Bias is hard to overcome. Whether or not this is actually happening, the fact that there is any discussion about this is concerning. People need to be aware of where they get their information.
(I highly recommend reading this article as it gives a very in depth look at the whole issue: https://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-google-search-bias-elections-20190322-story.html )
Halper, Even. “This Psychologist Claims Google Search Results Unfairly Steer Voters to the Left. Conservatives Love Him.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 22 Mar. 2019, www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-google-search-bias-elections-20190322-story.html.
Pierson, David. “Facebook, Twitter and Google Have Become Political Footballs for the Left and Right. This Week, Congress Get Its Kicks In.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 4 Sept. 2018, www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-tn-tech-bias-hearings-20180904-story.html.