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Can Google Influence Elections?

Unknown Lamer posted about 4 months ago | from the meme-cat-told-me-to-vote-for-kodos dept.

Google 138

KindMind (897865) writes "From the Washington Post: 'Psychologist Robert Epstein has been researching [how much influence search engines have on voting behavior] and says he is alarmed at what he has discovered. His most recent experiment, whose findings were released Monday, found that search engines have the potential to profoundly influence voters without them noticing the impact ... Epstein, former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today and a vocal critic of Google, has not produced evidence that this or any other search engine has intentionally deployed this power. But the new experiment builds on his earlier work by measuring SEME (Search Engine Manipulation Effect) in the concrete setting of India's national election, whose voting concludes Monday.'"

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Big deal (5, Funny)

Vuojo (1547799) | about 4 months ago | (#46987639)

Google will be renamed Weyland-Yutani at some point anyways...

Re:Big deal (5, Interesting)

FriendlyLurker (50431) | about 4 months ago | (#46987817)

Yeah the real news here is that the internet is undermining the top down power the traditional oligarchs had over the masses voting behavior via the old-world mass media broadcast companies. If Robert Epstein does not recognize this point, he is just another pawn trying to convince people to go against their own self interest (as is typically the case with most of the two party "first" world Republocrat systems.

Sure Google gets a big chunk of attention via its news service - but so does lots of "horizontal" news we get via social media. I'll take that over TV and newspaper oligarchies any-day thank you. Just finished reading about a big one in fact - 10 to 100 billion siphoned out of Ukraine and other eastern block countries by "offshore structures created and maintained by the west" - you (probably) will only hear about it on social media:

While New Zealand’s Company Law Reform Stalls, GT Group Helps a Thieving Ukrainian Despot [nakedcapitalism.com]
Fraud & Corrupt Practices in Prague & London [fraudinprague.com]

Re:Big deal (4, Insightful)

flyneye (84093) | about 4 months ago | (#46987969)

Just add a few entries to Youtube in search results and we have THE PEOPLE talking about candidates, pointing out the lies, the history, the payola, what corp. owns them and not a fucking thing a campaign manager can do , but to wet himself. Oh sure the candidate will have a few official videos,like anyone could care after its been plastered over T.V.
Talk about public service announcements, YEAH BABY! No one watches much T.V. anymore, anyway.

Re:Big deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46988231)

I'll take that over TV and newspaper oligarchies any-day thank you.

It's great for countries under oppression, but it's bad for the U.S. because people here tend to surround themselves with politically slanted news. Just look at comments on any story at major news outlets in the past few weeks...almost every single one has somebody claiming that piece of news is a "desperate attempt by liberal media to distract the public from the latest revelations about Benghazi."

Yes, seriously, they are still talking about that, almost certainly because Hillary is polling better than any GOP contender in swing states. If they bothered to pay attention to anything outside of Fox News and angry conservative talk radio, they would know that most people have moved on from the tragedy, considering she accepted the blame for it a year and a half ago. It's not even clear what they want out of continually harping on this other than simply smearing her name.

Re:Big deal (1, Insightful)

jmac_the_man (1612215) | about 4 months ago | (#46989909)

most people have moved on from the tragedy [the Benghazi attacks], considering [Hillary Clinton] accepted the blame for it a year and a half ago. It's not even clear what they want out of continually harping on this other than simply smearing her name.

Let's take it as a given that "What difference, at this point, does it make?" counts as claiming to accept blame for something. How does that work, exactly?

Let's use a concrete example. President Obama used drugs, primarily marijuana and cocaine, from his late teens into roughly his late twenties. My source for this is Dreams From My Father, his autobiography. The book came out about 15 years before his Presidential campaign started, and he's answered questions about it throughout his political career. His answers have largely been, "It was stupid. Pay attention in class and don't do drugs." Anyone who was going to vote against him because he used drugs had all the information to do so, straight from the horse's mouth. That's what taking responsibility for something means.

If Hillary Clinton is legitimately culpable for the lack of security at the compound in Benghazi, then her negligence led to the death of four Americans in a terrorist attack. According to you, Clinton has already admitted this. Being responsible, through negligence, for the deaths of four Americans is a legitimate campaign issue, and the Clinton campaign (and you) should be prepared for Benghazi to be held against her throughout the campaign. That's what taking responsibility for something means.

Hillary Clinton hasn't, in fact, admitted that she is responsible. Democrat hacks are STILL pretending the Youtube video spurred a demonstration that Clinton couldn't have forseen. (Eleanor Clift made this claim on The McLaughlin Group on Sunday.) The genesis of this claim is a set of talking points put out by the State Department (led, at the time, by Hillary Clinton) to conceal the issue until after the 2012 election. The coverup, is a separate issue that Clinton is responsible for.

Right now, it looks like Hillary Clinton was legitimately negligent in preparing for the Benghazi attack AND that she led a coverup of the attack to benefit her party on the eve of a Presidential election. We don't know, largely because the Democrats have been stonewalling on this since September 13th, 2012. The American people deserve to know what happened, and that goes double if we're being asked to vote for Clinton for President.

Re:Big deal (1)

Merk42 (1906718) | about 4 months ago | (#46990119)

I think GP's point was people will continuously talk about something from over a year and a half ago and completely ignore whatever the current topic was. Kind of like what you just did.

Re:Big deal (1)

Redmancometh (2676319) | about 4 months ago | (#46990437)

Well there havent been any major screw ups or victories on any of those topics that Ive seen.

Age of an issue has no effect on its importance if the person is still in power and controversey over it isnt settled.

Re:Big deal (4, Insightful)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | about 4 months ago | (#46988495)

Dammit, where is my mod points when I really need them. Exactly, this is the big point. The Internet has democratized information and oligarchs can not do anything against it. Before they simply bribed or threatened newspapers to hide unwanted news, but now is practically impossible to do that against every single person with access to the internet.

Re:Big deal (4, Interesting)

currently_awake (1248758) | about 4 months ago | (#46989121)

We have a new set of gate keepers. The same job as the old ones, just new names and faces. If you think Google isn't subject to political manipulation: It certainly looks like they are a willing participant in the NSA spying scandal.

Re:Big deal (1)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | about 4 months ago | (#46989291)

More or less. Google also can be bribed or threatened, but he is not the only way of find information, is just the most popular. The good thing on the internet is that when you discover that someone is trying to censor your searches, you can always find an alternative path.

Re:Big deal (1)

BradMajors (995624) | about 4 months ago | (#46988847)

Nonsense. Most people will read and believe the first new story that comes up on Google search. Google will further concentrate power into one company.

Re:Big deal (3, Interesting)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 4 months ago | (#46988851)

Yeah the real news here is that the internet is undermining the top down power the traditional oligarchs had over the masses voting behavior

Sure, that's why there is such a concerted effort to kill Net Neutrality.

If the internet undermines the "top down power the traditional oligarchs had over the masses voting behavior" only to hand it off to a new set of oligarchs, what has been gained?

We've seen a startling consolidation of the ways in which people can access the internet and increasing controls over what they can do there. As long as all the vaunted "free speech of "The People" is making the gatekeepers money, and doesn't really have that great an effect, it will be tolerated. No further. Do you really believe the internet has transformed peoples' relationship to political power? If you look at the level of entrenchment of corporate money in politics, there's no way you could possibly believe the internet is having anything like a democratizing effect. In fact, with surveillance and snooping, the citizen has probably lost significant power during the Age of the Internet.

We started losing the internet as a source of horizontal political power the day commerce was allowed and encouraged here. Maybe we were fooling ourselves that it could ever be otherwise. The end of Net Neutrality is the end of any possibility the Internet could ever be a source of political power to the People.

You mention some stories coming out of the Ukraine. Do you believe the proliferation of news sources has clarified what's really happening there? I think there's an argument to be made that it's made it nearly impossible to really get a clear picture of the situation. Several times already, I've seen trusted independent news sources get manipulated and fooled completely, only to find themselves slipping further from the truth instead of toward it. Are the nice-looking young women tearing their scarves into rags to make molotov cocktails freedom fighters or murderous terrorists? Are they fighting for independence or at the behest of Western powers? Are they seeking liberty or are they ethic supremacist fascists? Are the professional-looking men in uniforms without insignia keeping peace and order or subverting the will of the people? Several times already I've watched the drama unfold as an independent news blogger promotes some photo or video taken at the scene as showing one thing, only to later find out it shows another entirely. The thing I'm finding about the social-media news sources is that they can also be the easiest to manipulate. And if there are 500 entities reporting on the situation, how do you really vet the story that's filtering down to you?

I'm afraid that between the NSA, Google and the corporate consolidation of ISPs and content providers, the Internet is dead as a way for citizens to keep their governments and the economic elite accountable.

Re:Big deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46990057)

You mention some stories coming out of the Ukraine. Do you believe the proliferation of news sources has clarified what's really happening there? I think there's an argument to be made that it's made it nearly impossible to really get a clear picture of the situation. Several times already, I've seen trusted independent news sources get manipulated and fooled completely, only to find themselves slipping further from the truth instead of toward it. Are the nice-looking young women tearing their scarves into rags to make molotov cocktails freedom fighters or murderous terrorists? Are they fighting for independence or at the behest of Western powers? Are they seeking liberty or are they ethic supremacist fascists? Are the professional-looking men in uniforms without insignia keeping peace and order or subverting the will of the people? Several times already I've watched the drama unfold as an independent news blogger promotes some photo or video taken at the scene as showing one thing, only to later find out it shows another entirely. The thing I'm finding about the social-media news sources is that they can also be the easiest to manipulate. And if there are 500 entities reporting on the situation, how do you really vet the story that's filtering down to you?

So, is that what "double-think" is for?

Re:Big deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46989419)

I'd rather give Google 10% of all monies that were taxed and then embezzled or wasted rather than see it prop up another high-life contractor or oligarch.

Is there such a thing as a private firm that simply investigates and exposes fraud in government and takes the finder's fee?

Re:Big deal (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 4 months ago | (#46990461)

It's still top down, just with a new player on top. Google selecting what results you get probably can change elections now. Sure not the "decided" R & D voters, but the one's that are undecided can certainly be swayed if you search for a candidate and the first 20 results are links to his penis tweets or the intern he/she is banging [or that someone just claimed to they were banging]. Facebook could certainly do the same sort of thing.

Re:Big deal (1)

pr0nbot (313417) | about 4 months ago | (#46987909)

So wait, Skynet eventually became Weyland-Yutani? I missed Aliens vs Terminator.

Re:Big deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46988359)

So wait, Skynet eventually became Weyland-Yutani? I missed Aliens vs Terminator.

No. It's a time oscillation endpoint.
As long as Skynet continues to become sentient it invents time travel and sends back a terminator to alter reality. After a couple of alterations an outcome was created where Skynet didn't become sentient. Instead the military funding went into OCP. Their biotech department was later acquired by Weyland.

Hmmm... (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 4 months ago | (#46987645)

So search engines could influence elections; but we have no evidence as yet that they are exploiting that capability, while newspapers, radio, and television have been doing their best in that area more or less since their respective introductions.

Sounds like we'd better start panicking now.

Re:Hmmm... (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 4 months ago | (#46987821)

Sounds like we'd better start panicking now.

I'm not panicking until the Daily Mail tells me to!

Or, alternatively: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

Re:Hmmm... (2)

augahyde (1016980) | about 4 months ago | (#46987861)

Search engines are already implicitly biased based on their search and display algorithms. Google provides results on your past search history attempting to identify those items that you're more likely to read. If you're liberal, you are more likely to get results that include MSN, CNN, etc. Conservatives are more likely to get Fox, etc. These results are already helping to polarize us politically because more inclined to read things we agree with.

Re:Hmmm... (2)

stephenmac7 (2700151) | about 4 months ago | (#46987987)

If that's what you're concerned about, try DuckDuckGo [duckduckgo.com] .

Re:Hmmm... (5, Interesting)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about 4 months ago | (#46988103)

Search engines are already implicitly biased based on their search and display algorithms. Google provides results on your past search history attempting to identify those items that you're more likely to read. If you're liberal, you are more likely to get results that include MSN, CNN, etc. Conservatives are more likely to get Fox, etc

Indeed. There's also a name for the phenomenon -- a filter bubble [wikipedia.org] .

There are those who downplay this effect or say it isn't that large. I don't know. In the 2012 election, I searched for Ron Paul news on a regular basis. (I wasn't a supporter, but I found his attempts to overthrow the standard Republican political machine on the local level to be intriguing, and some of the reactions from the party were shocking.)

Pretty soon, I noticed Ron Paul stuff (news reports, links, etc.) showing up much more frequently in Google for me. I got curious and checked some friends -- and they weren't hearing or seeing anything about this, because Google didn't show them the same search results.

Those who already were interested in Ron Paul saw more about him. Those who didn't already know about him weren't seeing any of the crazy things happening with his supporters, because Google apparently decided via its algorithms that they'd rather see more news about cats or celebrity love interests or whatever crap.

It was at that point that I stopped using Google as my standard search engine. (This was also after years of frustration with Google becoming increasingly unable to function as an actual search engine that would look for what I told it to, rather than some wacko variation of my search that dropped half of my search terms arbitrarily and replaced others with "synonyms" that often weren't related at all.)

Re:Hmmm... (1)

Fnord666 (889225) | about 4 months ago | (#46989207)

There's also a name for the phenomenon -- a filter bubble.

This ties in to a more general phenomenon known as confirmation bias [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Hmmm... (2)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about 4 months ago | (#46989517)

This ties in to a more general phenomenon known as confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias is rather different, since it refers to the tendency of people for themselves to seek out information or look for information that confirms their pre-existing beliefs, while ignoring or avoiding information that might contradict them.

The "filter bubble" effect refers to third parties (like search engines, social media like Facebook, etc.) which filter media according to their assumptions about what you may prefer to see.

You can say that the "filter bubble" enables confirmation bias, but in the former, it is a third party that is refusing to show you things it thinks you don't want to see, while in the latter, you are choosing to filter things for yourself (consciously or unconsciously).

The huge difference is that with confirmation bias, you can still encounter things that contradict you, but you have to justify to yourself that they are wrong or not important to read or know about or whatever. With an "ideal" filter bubble, you may never see opposing views or stories in the first place, and thus you gradually come to think that the world is perfectly in accord with your views. The latter is much more extreme, and, since it is controlled by a third party, potentially much more manipulative and dangerous (since those "filters" could be theoretically tweaked in subtle but malicious ways... not saying Google is doing that, but the potential for abuse is much greater). It can also potentially lead to a feedback loop, where your perspectives get ever more narrow and perhaps even more extreme, without the context of alternative views... and without you even realizing it, since you no longer have to actually reject the alternative perspectives: you just don't even know they exist.

Re:Hmmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46989651)

yes, thank you...
you can search on the EXACT name of some organization, and it WILL NOT come up in the first couple pages of results, but TONS of shit only tangentially related WILL be pushed to the top... fucking useless..

similarly, i find amazon to be a total piece of shit when i'm searching for stuff, and ESPECIALLY when i go to search for THE SAME THING I JUST SAW, and it tells me there are NO SEARCH RESULTS when i cut and paste THEIR PRODUCT DESCRIPTION... wtf ?
its to the point that i NEVER close a 'search' window in amazon, because there is a 50/50 chance I WON'T FIND THAT ITEM AGAIN, even searching the exact same term, the exact same 'dept' (ALL)...
needless to say, sent an email to amazon bitching about this (in GREAT detail), and they came back with some lame shit about how they 'improve' search results, etc; talking RIGHT PAST my actual complaint, and essentially telling me to STFU, they were going to provide the search results THEY wanted, not what i wanted....

e.g.: searched on 'shea's butter' and found a half dozen products on the first page that were EXACTLY what i wanted; (left that window open); then i went and browsed for something else, put that in the cart, and -silly me- searched for 'shea's butter' (EXACT SAME PHRASE, EXACT 'dept'), and it came up with pages and pages of -some- related stuff that was NOT like what i originally found (and wanted), and even more pages that were NOT EVEN CLOSE, *BUT* were some weird bastardization of subsequent items i searched for... they didn't have ONE ITEM i saw (and eventually bought) on my original search...
again, WTF amazon ? ? ?
JUST FUCKING SEARCH WHAT I TELL YOU, and get the fucking marketing droids out of the search department...
dicks...

Doesn't Google tailor search results? (1)

penguinoid (724646) | about 4 months ago | (#46989809)

I thought part of the point of Google tracking you was that they could tailor search results (and ads of course) to your interests. So Google finds you're interested in Ron Paul, and gives you more stuff about Ron Paul.

Re:Hmmm... (1)

jbolden (176878) | about 4 months ago | (#46988181)

That's interesting. I didn't think of that, but I suspect that's true now that I think about it. My news results on political topics do cater to my preferences more than a random selection would. I hadn't really noticed but now that you mention it... :)

LMFAO- "Maturity test". (5, Informative)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 4 months ago | (#46987889)

Information will affect what you think, reliable information more so....

"In 2012, Epstein publicly disputed with Google Search over a security warning placed on links to his website.[10] His website, which features mental health screening tests, was blocked for serving malware that could infect visitors to the site. Epstein ...[ threw a very public tantrum, ]... threatened legal action if the warning concerning his website was not removed, and denied that any problems with his website existed.[10] Several weeks later, Epstein admitted his website had been hacked, but still blamed Google for tarnishing his name and not helping him find the infection.[11]" - WP.

The paragraph above that I found via google (top hit) certainly affected the way I think about Epstien. In fact it could be said that google made coffee come out of my nose when I read the line above it - "Epstein has studied psychological maturity and published an online maturity test.".

Re:LMFAO- "Maturity test". (3, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 4 months ago | (#46987941)

Maybe it does not, in fact, take one to know (about) one?

Also, since when exactly does Google do free security consulting for every last two-bit malware farm on the internet? They give you a handy warning in the course of assisting their users; but that's sort of the extent of it.

Re:LMFAO- "Maturity test". (2)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 4 months ago | (#46988147)

Please excuse Juan from being a sheep head.

Signed, Epstein's mother's veterinarian.

Experiment? Science? (4, Insightful)

EasyTarget (43516) | about 4 months ago | (#46987665)

Ooooh Epstein; you have so much to learn. Maybe you should Google 'Peer review' etc.

Re:Experiment? Science? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46988443)

But how could he trust the results?

grain of salt? (2)

l3v1 (787564) | about 4 months ago | (#46987669)

Or a rather huge rock of salt. If lots of people are interested in a subject, create pages that link to pages dealing with it, tweet about it, post about it, etc, that will - or should, at least - create a change in ranking, regardless of it being about politicians, or snakes (oh, sorry, they just might be the same :P). Calling the changes in rankings that reflect people's interest - or lack of it - about a certain subject 'influencing' sounds to me very largely misinterpreted. Anyway, if some people can really be influenced by the rankings of a search engine, that's more a testament of those people's intellect or ignorance, than anything else. Plus, the numbers in the mentioned study, and how they were obtained, can't convince me of any 'science' behind them, let alone make me even consider their significance - if any. Especially this one: 'Biased search rankings also changed the extent to which participants indicated they trust the candidates' - which, to me at least, simply sounds crazy stupid.

Of course they can (5, Insightful)

pablo_max (626328) | about 4 months ago | (#46987707)

It is a simple fact that they had a mind to, they could drastically impact the elections.

Nearly 90% of the people out there use Google to search for information about everything from the political to lolcatz.
All they would need to do is omit some results from the search and place others high in the list. They can even insert propaganda into seemingly unrelated searches.
Something perhaps designed to manufacture rage at one particular party or candidate.

Controlling all information to have complete power.

Imagine if google and bing decided that a certain candidate didn't exist and the name only returned some unrelated items. No news article links, no info sites, nothing.

Re:Of course they can (4, Interesting)

bmajik (96670) | about 4 months ago | (#46987805)

Imagine if google and bing decided that a certain candidate didn't exist and the name only returned some unrelated items. No news article links, no info sites, nothing.

You mean like what "traditional" media did to Ron Paul, Gary Johnson, and Jill Stein?

This story seems like a case of moving goal posts. Of _course_ the place people go to get information skews their thinking about politics and politicians.

If someone is mad about google potentially doing this, it's only because they'd prefer that newspapers and tv stations retained that role by divine right...

Re:Of course they can (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46987997)

It's a travesty what they did to Jill Stein. She was the only real honest-to-God environmental socialist among all of the candidates running, and oh gee what do you know, now Obama is kinda halfheartedly giving lip-service to most of the platform she ran upon.

The reason they buried her alive was because she could not be influenced by the puppetmasters. There would be no debate over Keystone XL, for example, or the coal industry. Both would be completely out of business by now, and we'd be well on the way to reducing our global environmental impact.

But, there's no money to be made in a clear, concise, and driven agenda. Only a politician who pretends to sit on the fence can really move a lot of money. Just look at the BILLIONS that are being spent just on lobbying over the environmental DISASTER we know as Keystone XL. Obama pretends to sit on the fence, delaying decisions as long as possible, and meanwhile generating hundreds of millions in donations to the party. It's brilliant, but completely ineffective in terms of actually doing anything.

In many ways, it is the complete lack of strong leadership that is destroying this country. People need a leader, and no, not one that inspires. Most people cannot be inspired to greatness, because that is not their purpose. Most people, quite frankly, need to be told what to do, and what is best for them. And, most people are perfectly happy with that. There hasn't been a real, true leader in this country in a great many decades, probably not since Lincoln. Reagan kinda wouldn't take crap from anybody, but not to the degree of Lincoln.

Anyway, I realize this is all offtopic, but I saw that someone else had actually heard of Jill Stein, so my comment that is actually ON topic is that apparently the manipulators and liars weren't completely effective, because a few people actually know who she is.

Re:Of course they can (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46988547)

The reason they buried her alive was because she could not be influenced by the puppetmasters. There would be no debate over Keystone XL, for example, or the coal industry. Both would be completely out of business by now, and we'd be well on the way to reducing our global environmental impact.

It's funny how some people think that the president can snap their fingers and make anything happen. This sort of naive attitude is the real reason she was unelectable, the only ones who believed in her are just about as insane.

Re:Of course they can (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46989313)

Obama has proven that, in most respect, the President CAN in fact snap his fingers and make anything happen, because of the massive amount of authority that has been delegated to the executive branch over the years.

Little-known fact: The President actually had the authority to implement Obamacare by Executive Order, owing to the collective of federal authorities delegated to the Executive over the years. The only reason he wanted a new Law was so that blame could be spread around when it failed. Well guess what. It failed, and you don't see anyone pointing the finger at Obama, now, do you? (except maybe the right-wing neo-nazi fascists like Boehner and the Tea Party, but that's to be expected, and those lunatics can be safely ignored).

Re:Of course they can (1)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about 4 months ago | (#46988639)

Anyway, I realize this is all offtopic, but I saw that someone else had actually heard of Jill Stein, so my comment that is actually ON topic is that apparently the manipulators and liars weren't completely effective, because a few people actually know who she is.

I was one of the few that voted for her last election.

There was a site I was on for a few years, that had a couple dozen regular posters. About half of us voted for her, from the more-conservatives like myself, to the far-lefties who hate Obama's right-wing policies.

Also, read my sig.

Re:Of course they can (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 4 months ago | (#46990129)

Re: Jill Stein...

EIGHT Constitutional Amendments in her platform??? That alone was enough to convince me she was a lunatic.

There would be no debate over Keystone XL, for example, or the coal industry. Both would be completely out of business by now, and we'd be well on the way to reducing our global environmental impact.

So, you think we'd be in good shape if we had eliminated the coal industry over the last 16 months, eh?

Somehow, I think not, since, even if we had wanted to, we couldn't replace that much of our power generation equipment that quickly.

Re:Of course they can (2)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 4 months ago | (#46988275)

The difference is that Google is not media.
They are not offering you an above board opinion, they are passing themselves off as a library of knowledge. But they have the power to easily be an opinion based advise service.

Re:Of course they can (1)

currently_awake (1248758) | about 4 months ago | (#46989215)

They have a news site, that makes them media. So far their interests are in selling OTHER peoples information instead of their own opinions, but that is always subject to change.

Re:Of course they can (1)

swillden (191260) | about 4 months ago | (#46989403)

The difference is that Google is not media.

Google disagrees. In fact, that disagreement was the reason why Google's IPO modeled the voting stock structure on that of publicly-owned newspapers and other media companies. The danger is that public ownership may drive the company to push perspectives that the shareholders want, so voting rights are retained in a small group whose editorial integrity is trusted. Google's founders demanded that the IPO be set up as it was specifically so that they couldn't be forced by shareholders to manipulate search results, because they felt that it was critical for Google's sake that it continue to be an honest index of web content. It has now become big enough that it is important not just to Google but to the integrity of the world's political processes.

As others have pointed out, this may represent an improvement over the status quo ante, in which the available political news was decided by media which were overtly political. On the other hand, the new world of automatically-personalized search engines exacerbate the risk of the filter bubble. Search engines don't create this risk, because it has always been possible for people to choose to subscribe to news sources that confirm their own biases (and many, many people have), but in that case at least people know they're choosing one source over another, even if they may not recognize why they're doing it.

On the other hand, it's possible for Google et al to counter the filter bubble effect by occasionally inserting high-quality counter-preference results. The interesting thing about that approach is that it can be argued that it is a case of deliberate manipulation, while selecting for preference is just a logical way to better serve the user by giving them what they're looking for.

FYI, Matt Cutts (one of the leaders of Google's Web Search team) responded to filter bubble questions on Hacker News: https://news.ycombinator.com/i... [ycombinator.com] . Among other things, he says Google does do some things to increase diversity in results. He also mentions that you can easily disable web personalization if you don't want it.

Re:Of course they can (2)

bluegutang (2814641) | about 4 months ago | (#46989331)

The difference is that everyone knows the media excluded Paul, Johnson, and Stein. If you want, you can tell your friends about it. If enough people are upset, perhaps the media will decide to change.

Whereas if Google decided to manipulate search results before an election, chances are good that nobody would ever find out.

Re:Of course they can (1)

asylumx (881307) | about 4 months ago | (#46988057)

All they would need to do is omit some results from the search and place others high in the list. They can even insert propaganda into seemingly unrelated searches. Something perhaps designed to manufacture rage at one particular party or candidate.

I don't think this is the case. I think most people when searching about politics are likely to be searching for evidence to back up an opinion they already hold. The other primary use case is likely to look up a candidate to see if they are in the same party as the searcher or not (since a lot of TV ads don't state party affiliation outright).

Of course I haven't done a study to prove this. Like most of you, I don't have time for that. Generally speaking, though, the troll articles that come up when you search on a political topic are very obvious and the only way someone would bite on those is if the article supports what they already want to think.

Re:Of course they can (1)

jmyers (208878) | about 4 months ago | (#46988525)

The people that would be influenced by Google are the same ones influenced by People magazine and major TV networks. These people decide a lot of elections. The so called "undecided voters" which is another term for dumbass. They pay no attention to politics except that last few weeks before a presidential election. They are the swing votes that are going to go with the candidate based on good looks and charisma. The major TV networks have almost complete control over the process of selecting the candidate for these people. They have no idea that 3rd party candidates exist. I talked to a lot of people about Gary Johnson last election and many were adamant there was no 3rd party candidate this time and I didn't know what I was talking about.

Not only Google themselves could be able to swing the results. The candidate with the best SEO team might be able to influence the results. Run some negative TV ads that drop keywords is a way you know people will search. This could bring to the surface some really nasty articles written with the slant of your choice. Unfortunately negative works big time on the dumbass voter crowd.

Re:Of course they can (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46988933)

Some might call a person who votes for a third party a "dumbass." The undecided matter, but it is not the most important factor. The biggest issue is voter participation. If the Democrats can get their supporters out, they win. If the Republicans can get their supporters out, they win. Alternately, if you can convince your opponent's base to stay home, you will win. This is where the money becomes so important. Google seems less likely to be able to do the same thing. Anyone doing research on Google is probably already interested.

Re:Of course they can (1)

asylumx (881307) | about 4 months ago | (#46989573)

Google seems less likely to be able to do the same thing. Anyone doing research on Google is probably already interested.

Yes, thanks, this is the point I was trying to make.

Re:Of course they can (2)

currently_awake (1248758) | about 4 months ago | (#46989255)

It doesn't have to be Google. Your ISP can MIM your searches to "fix" what you see, so can the government. Given how the NSA has behaved, I expect they have at least tried something like this as an experiment.

In banana republics, anyone with money can (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46987719)

I'm counting you guys in the US as a third world country. Sorry, but you are.

Re:In banana republics, anyone with money can (1)

Pepix (84058) | about 4 months ago | (#46987895)

I'm counting you guys in the US as a third world country. Sorry, but you are.

Well, in a certain sense, every country in this planet is a third world country. Third from the Sun, of course.

Please, return your Geek ID card if you don't catch the reference and/or the ha ha only serious mood. Thank you.

Re:In banana republics, anyone with money can (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46988097)

US is First World by definition. Sorry, but it is. Third World means not allied with US or USSR. Guess what the Second World was.

Re:In banana republics, anyone with money can (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46988985)

US is First World by definition. Sorry, but it is. Third World means not allied with US or USSR. Guess what the Second World was.

I actually laughed at the poor troll attempt.
I'll add to the conversation out of boredom. First world is the classification given to countries that are considered most developed and their people most civilised. Second world are developing countries, such as my own. Third world are considered countries with really poor development and lack of social development. It's actually a top of countries and US, as any other country, can go up and down. While US becoming underdeveloped or uncivilised is unlikely it's not impossible.

Depends How Much It Spends (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46987723)

The more it greases the more it gets to slide.

Can NSA influence the next electronic vote/count? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46987729)

Fo sho'

Google wants campaign dollars... (2)

Bob_Who (926234) | about 4 months ago | (#46987761)

Google will be quite happy to give it a try . Google is here to sell anyone as much influence as they are willing to pay for... All of those anonymous special interest campaign dollars are burning a hole in souls for sale to the highest bidder. Lobbyists might as well be optimized by those who "don't be evil"... but will be profitable and peddle some product .... and we are that product they are selling. Google is the people's pimp.

Bigger problem (4, Insightful)

StripedCow (776465) | about 4 months ago | (#46987789)

The bigger problem is that we, the people, have only 1 voting-moment in every term.
You can ask yourself: how is this possible, considering the technological advancements we have been through in the last two decades (in the fields of communication and social media)?
The answer: congress has only itself to blame.

Check out this video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

Re:Bigger problem (2)

u38cg (607297) | about 4 months ago | (#46987893)

Because representative democracy. The Athenians tried democracy for reals and it was a fucking disaster.

Re:Bigger problem (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 months ago | (#46988273)

Because representative democracy. The Athenians tried democracy for reals and it was a fucking disaster.

No, no they didn't. They gave only racially privileged landowners the vote. That ain't democracy. It's specifically the same kind of oligarchy we have here. Ours just involves more technology which gives the plebes the appearance of having influenced the election while permitting it to be manipulated nine ways from poll day.

Re:Bigger problem (1)

fph il quozientatore (971015) | about 4 months ago | (#46988203)

"blame" - like it wasn't in their interest to be the ones who take the real decisions...

Re:Bigger problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46988265)

Liquid democracy. LOL.

In practice, if you want to work you will need to give your vote to your employer whom will use it to destroy working condition. You just enabled fascism and slavery with that short sighted idea.

Direct, representative or any democracy for that matter will never work better then what we have because 1. The peoples are stupid. and 2. American Idol. This is as good as it get, accept it. Do your own stuff and do not care for your neighbours.

Re:Bigger problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46989197)

The bigger problem is that we, the people, have only 1 voting-moment in every term.
You can ask yourself: how is this possible, considering the technological advancements we have been through in the last two decades (in the fields of communication and social media)?
The answer: congress has only itself to blame.

Check out this video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

The sword cuts both ways. With a representative democracy, you have the problem that you can't truly support the ideas you support. I'm generally aligned with the democrats in what I support, but there are certain republican ideas that I would like to support. The problem is that there is pretty much no candidate in any part that agrees with me in everything, and even if they did, they (or rather, money) can always change their mind after I vote for them

On the other hand, with a direct democracy, you can just as well end up with a mostly uninformed public making decisions they know nothing about. Just imagine trying to pass something like health care reform. The ACA may be horrendously verbose, but even if it were made concise (or even an overly-concise single page), there's no way 90% of people would understand the full details of it. They'd just know a few (likely untrue) things they saw on some commercial and vote based on that.And speaking of those commercials, if you thought the smear campaigns were bad now, just wait until you need full blown smear campaigns for every idea, all year long, every year. It would be like perpetual election season.

Direct democracy is great if you have a mostly-informed public. Representative democracy is great when you only have a semi-informed public and have honest representatives. When your public is largely uninformed/misinformed and your representatives are mostly dishonest, I'm not really sure what the best form of government is.

Re:Bigger problem (1)

currently_awake (1248758) | about 4 months ago | (#46989283)

You WANT to spend your time studying politics and keeping track of what is happening in the world?! Why? There is a reason we have political terms, it's because most people can't stand to think about the whole mess more than 2 or 3 times per decade.

Re:Bigger problem (1)

StripedCow (776465) | about 4 months ago | (#46989343)

Please watch the video. The whole idea is that you can "delegate" your votes or even part of your votes to others.
It is, imho, a brilliant idea, and they called it "liquid democracy".

They could do it....once (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46987807)

Google/Bing could get away with manipulating elections, but as soon as it's publicly revealed they have done so, the people who are really in charge will make it all sorts of illegal, or flat-out destroy them entirely.

Even if you help the party in power, they won't want you to put them out of power.

Re:They could do it....once (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46987971)

Um, don't you know that the CEOs of every major search engine are all far left-wing socialists working for George Soros?

Of course they can. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46987833)

But so can I.
Duh...

totally read that title wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46987891)

totally read that title wrong

Information influences decision making (4, Insightful)

protoporos (900257) | about 4 months ago | (#46987917)

If you control the information, you can exert significant influence in the decision-making process of the individuals that use your service. You should not need a big research to figure this out.

Actually that happens also to be the most major "design gap" in Democracy (and I say that, even though I'm Greek). The fact that you will increase the decision makers in a topic does not mean that you will get a better & more objective decision, simply because they might lack the proper, accurate information to make an informed judgment. In other words, by increasing N, you average out the localized/special interests, but you also reduce the average amount of information each "unit" has on the topic (because you sum and divide by N).

So, coming back to the topic, accurate information is a key contributing factor for good decision making, especially for important topics like who will be your head of state for the next ~4 years. That is why diversification is beneficial even in your personal "information channels".

Re:Information influences decision making (1)

StripedCow (776465) | about 4 months ago | (#46987959)

In other words, by increasing N, you average out the localized/special interests

See the video in my comment above, which specifically addresses this problem.

Re:Information influences decision making (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 4 months ago | (#46988693)

I'd be careful about that "slippery slope" problem you're talking about. It's an inefficiency of democracy, but it is more than balanced out by democracy's incredible positives. Go down that road, and you end up like this:

"No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?"
-- George Orwell, "Animal Farm"

Google image search can certainly... (1)

Mojo66 (1131579) | about 4 months ago | (#46987923)

...stimulate *erections*

Re:Google image search can certainly... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46987965)

Yes [tinyurl.com]

Nate Silver is praying this is true (1)

gelfling (6534) | about 4 months ago | (#46987967)

Since without massive levels of auto correlation he has no business model.

Ssssh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46987999)

Don't tell Israel.

Remind me again... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46988019)

Why democracy is so awesome? Why people who are so easily influenced by the media, so as to change their entire vote, should be able to influence the passing of laws dictating how I should lead my life?

Seems to me the average voter is a dolt. And this move to make sure that even people too lazy to get a free state issued ID can vote... so they don't even have to get their fat ass out of the house and can vote over the Internet... THESE are the people who are going to tell ME how to live?

Re:Remind me again... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46988155)

"Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." -Winston Churchill

Democracy is great because (1)

currently_awake (1248758) | about 4 months ago | (#46989327)

Because it gives the people who dislike the current situation a reason to think they can fix the systems problems by talking and getting public support. Without that belief their only option is civil war or crime. This belief is the reason that Democracy is great, because it drastically reduces civil war.

Which is why the ranking is automated (3, Informative)

brunes69 (86786) | about 4 months ago | (#46988029)

"With a group of more than 1,800 study participants â" all undecided voters in India -- the research team was able to shift votes by an average of 12.5 percent to favored candidates by deliberating altering their rankings in search results, Epstein said. " Which is exactly why Google does not manually manipulate their search result rankings for any reason, no matter who complains about it. Someone brings a lawsuit against Google for their search rankings seemingly every day. No one ever wins. The rankings are decided by an algorithm that for the most part gives very appropriate results. Unless someone shows me evidence that Google is manually manipulating rankings then this is a non-story to me.

Re:Which is why the ranking is automated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46988243)

Unless someone shows me evidence that Google is manually manipulating rankings then this is a non-story to me.

Google admits they are manipulating rankings:
https://www.google.com/transparencyreport/removals/government/countries/

Picking and choosing which removal requests they act upon from any entity is a form of political bias.
IMHO to be apolitical they need to ignore removal requests from all entities, including themselves.

Re:Which is why the ranking is automated (2)

Nemyst (1383049) | about 4 months ago | (#46988319)

This isn't picking and choosing, this is following the bloody law. It's not Google's fault if the government and the justice system make this possible, and not complying could end up with Google getting blocked from operating in those countries.

Re:Which is why the ranking is automated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46988473)

If you notice they do not comply with all law requests. So they do not follow

the bloody law

of every country whole heartedly, only when it suits them.
Google rides on its own "do no evil" morals, which is far from being apolitical. And every manual removal from a take down request artificially modifies ranking, whether it is done out of legal ramification or not.

Law is set by those who control others, which makes all law open to political manipulation.

Re:Which is why the ranking is automated (5, Insightful)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about 4 months ago | (#46988899)

Unless someone shows me evidence that Google is manually manipulating rankings then this is a non-story to me.

Of course they're manipulating rankings, especially through personalization -- you live in a different region, have a different search history, etc., and Google will deliver more content at higher ranks that is supposedly "tailored for you."

Net result of this manipulation is that people can end up in poltical "feedback loops" more easily. We already naturally tend to do this: liberals tend to click on stories on liberal sites with liberal titles or slants; conservatives do the same.

That's all fine -- but what happens when you stop even SEEING what the other side is talking about?

You can argue that Google's personalization is just doing this for everyone, so it's not biased. But by filtering content that you see and narrowing its focus, it significantly alters whatever the standard distribution of news stories is by zeroing in on what most people are interested in. Do this enough, and nobody ever sees information about a lesser-known candidate, even if that candidate is in media sources and people write on the web about him/her, because Google "knows" that you are most interested in the better-known candidates, based on your previous search behavior. And because you live in a certain region, perhaps you see information about political issues A and B, but almost nothing about C and D, since people in your region don't seem to like clicking on stuff about C and D.

Just because Google doesn't tweak its algorithms because of individual complaints doesn't mean they couldn't result in a significant bias or manipulation (even if unintentional) in the way people vote.

It's always manipulating the results.... (3, Interesting)

Gorkamecha (948294) | about 4 months ago | (#46988067)

It's always manipulating the results....by design. Google will show you the links that it thinks the majority of people are looking for, based on your search term. It might even adjust them a bit if it knows more about you. So if I'm a minority candidate in an election, with a weak online campaign, there is a chance my content is filtered out simply because Google thinks I'm noise. Or I'm pushed several pages down in the listings. As a person using google, I can tweak my search to find better results, but only if I know the results are there to find." What color of lipstick does Trinity wear in the matrix" will get me a vastly different answer from "What color lipstick do movie stars wear?" Same for politics - "What candidate supports gun control" will get you a different result from "What candidate is looking to limit the caliber of rifles to .22". Both could get me a politician, but the first is going to get me a far more generic "popular" link then the much more specific second. And if I don't know I'm looking for the second guy, I might stop at the first.

Re:It's always manipulating the results.... (2)

u38cg (607297) | about 4 months ago | (#46988189)

Google probably weights your search reults more by what it knows about you than anything else. For instance, I play the bagpipes and searching for anything with the term "pipe" in it doesn't result in plumbing results. Of course, if you're a bagpipe-playing plumber, you're in trouble...

Re:It's always manipulating the results.... (1)

swillden (191260) | about 4 months ago | (#46989427)

Google probably weights your search reults more by what it knows about you than anything else. For instance, I play the bagpipes and searching for anything with the term "pipe" in it doesn't result in plumbing results. Of course, if you're a bagpipe-playing plumber, you're in trouble...

Matt Cutts says that the personalization-based weighting isn't the strongest part of the weighting. He specifically says it's weaker than location. https://news.ycombinator.com/i... [ycombinator.com]

Re:It's always manipulating the results.... (1)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | about 4 months ago | (#46988571)

And the interesting detail: On Google can be a little more difficult to find information about the less famous candidates, but you can get the information you want. If it was in the newspapers in my country (Brazil), you would not find any information or find only lies about them. Here the major newspapers, TVs and magazines have been sold long ago to the highest bidder and damned the truth.

Companies are not people. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46988091)

And IMO at a given size/serving the public should be required to follow rules similar to that of government, such as to remain impartial/give equal screen-time/money to all parties(if any).
I did say IMO..

  I'd like to see wikipedia create their own independent web search engine/database. I would be more inclined to trust their results(not ad influenced anyway)

Page-rank (1)

StripedCow (776465) | about 4 months ago | (#46988117)

We actually should use the page-rank algorithm for elections!

Re:Page-rank (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46988885)

I do! Too bad you don't have Hierarchical Preference Voting.

Why stop at influence? (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 4 months ago | (#46988161)

Few other companies stop there. They might as well just go all the way and either buy the election or buy the politician. It is, after all, the American Way.

Re:Why stop at influence? (1)

MoonlessNights (3526789) | about 4 months ago | (#46988755)

The point is that, with influence, they don't need to buy the politician as control of information is far more powerful than control of resources.

In effect, they could manufacture their own candidate and ensure that the information they returned is heavily biased in light of this new "underdog" or "dark horse" and suddenly political manipulation has been accomplished, and packaged in a story you can sell to Hollywood, for added attention.

They would also be able to keep their puppet on a short leash since they had already demonstrated that they have the ability to control all the information around them. That kind of control can't be purchased with campaign donations or lobbying.

Interestingly, because of the way many people seem to vote and because they had so much control over the information, even pointing out that this was happening would be unlikely to change the result (since it would take attention away from the competitors, it would probably make matters worse).

sinple answer...yes, of course they can! (1)

Connie_Lingus (317691) | about 4 months ago | (#46988527)

anything people read, view, or discuss can influence everything we do, so of course google can influence elections...what a stupid questions.

advertisers pay huge sums to google for what?...to influence people to choose and buy their products

elections are simply a money game nowadays anyway...its been known for a century that election outcomes are almost totally a results of the dollar inputs.

India? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46988967)

Yeah, but India's a squalid, pestilential hole of a third-world nation where a huge majority of their people think COWS are "sacred animals" instead of roving sources of hamburger and steak.

If they're THAT backwards, is it any wonder someone putting "Vote for UNPRONOUNCEABLE NAME!" at the top of a search result sways such stupid people?

Not so important in the context of India (1)

nikkipolya (718326) | about 4 months ago | (#46989067)

This isn't so important in the context of India. In India political parties have better and more effective methods to influence the voters. One method that is currently the favorite is to bribe the voter. In the currently held election political parties were offering $8 to $16 per vote. Another method is called as "booth capturing". Where a bunch of goons or politically influential people storm a polling booth and start pressing the buttons on the voting machine in their favor. The prime ministerial candidate from the currently ruling party was caught doing exactly that. The penalty would be that he might have to privately apologize. Another popular method is to spread fear among the voters. Some employers have threatened their employees to vote for a particular party or risk losing their job. Most people are not aware that its a secret ballot and hence comply. May be its true too, who knows? The voting machine could be watching you.

The rich become powerful and the powerful become rich. Democracy is a charade.

Google? No.. (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 4 months ago | (#46989995)

Open secrets should have some influence though. But the most influence still comes from the TV propaganda machine. The other probably being alcohol abuse.

Instead of... (1)

p51d007 (656414) | about 4 months ago | (#46990009)

can it, it should be DOES IT. Pretty much any media source can have influence, it all depends on the "sheeple" be they on the left or the right. If a person is not an independent thinker, then yes, media can have influence. I consider myself a constitutional conservative, but, I also think for myself and don't do something just because "everyone else does".

It's all in the marketing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46990155)

Elections are just marketing and guess what people use Google for?

Ask Rick Santorum... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46990395)

if Google can influence voters.

Re:Ask Rick Santorum... (1)

kenj0418 (230916) | about 4 months ago | (#46990449)

I expect he's still frothing over what was done to him.

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