Is Google search bias a real thing? One expert says it is — and it could have given Hillary Clinton up to 10 million votes in the 2016 election.
As Newsbusters reported, Wednesday was the day that the Senate Judiciary Committee decided to address the thorny topic of potential bias from the world’s largest search engine. The hearing, “Google and Censorship through Search Engines,” was predictably a contentious affair.
The headline-maker from the event was Sen. Ted Cruz.
The Texas Republican grilled Karan Bhatia, Google’s vice president for government affairs & public policy, over internal documents that said “tech firms have gradually shifted away from unmediated free speech and toward censorship and moderation.” (Bhatia, for his part, said that the document was an example of marketing team brainstorming and not official company policy.)
For those concerned about big tech and its political influence, however, the most frightening bit of testimony might have come from Dr. Robert Epstein, a senior researcher at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology.
Epstein, an expert on Google, said he felt that “upwards of 15 million votes” were potentially at stake during the 2020 election due to Google’s policies.
During questioning by Cruz, Epstein said that “through bias and search results,” the tech giant had delivered millions of votes to the Democratic candidate in the 2016 election, as well.
When asked to elaborate how many votes this entailed, the number was quite high — up to 10 million and more, Epstein said.
“The range is between 2.6 and 10.4 million votes depending on how aggressive they were in using the techniques that I’ve been studying, such as the search engine manipulation effect, the search suggestion effect, the answer bot effect, and a number of others,” he said.
“They control these and no one can counteract them. These are not competitive. These are tools that they have at their disposal exclusively.”
Video below. (The exchange in question begins at about 5:30):
“If any headline comes out of this hearing, that should be it,” Cruz said after having Epstein repeat the numbers.
In his prepared remarks to the committee, the researcher noted that Clinton — who he says he supported — was “in all 10 positions on the first page of search results in both blue states and red states.”
“I know this because I preserved more than 13,000 election-related searches conducted by a diverse group of Americans on Google, Bing, and Yahoo in the weeks leading up to the election, and Google search results – which dominate search in the U.S. and worldwide – were significantly biased in favor of Secretary Clinton,” Epstein said in his prepared remarks.
“I know the number of votes that shifted because I have conducted dozens of controlled experiments in the U.S. and other countries that measure precisely how opinions and votes shift when search results favor one candidate, cause, or company. I call this shift ‘SEME’ — the Search Engine Manipulation Effect.”
Google has had all sorts of problems when it comes to its purported liberal bias as of late, although these aren’t necessarily new issues.
In late 2018, a leaked email obtained by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson seemed to indicate the company targeted voter turnout among demographic groups which were likely to support Democrats during the 2016 election process.
Then there were the Project Veritas videos, in which internal documents and undercover footage pointed toward all sorts of thumb-on-scales activity inside Google when it came to conservative sources and causes — videos which, like almost anything Project Veritas does, was brushed off with the usual “this is all edited out of context” statement.
We don’t actually know what the case is because there’s almost no transparency when it comes to the search results Google produces, which is what concerned both Cruz and Epstein.
“In 2020, you can bet that all of these companies are going to go all out, and the methods they are using are invisible, they’re subliminal, they are more powerful than most any effects I’ve ever seen in behavioral sciences and I’ve been in behavioral sciences for almost 40 years,” Epstein said.
When Cruz said that a “handful of Silicon Valley billionaires and giant corporations are able to spend millions of dollars, if not billions, collectively massively influencing the results of the elections,” Epstein responded in a way that should probably wake all of us up to how serious the danger is.
“Senator, with respect I must correct you,” he said. “If Mark Zuckerberg chooses to send out a ‘go vote’ reminder to just Democrats on Election Day, that doesn’t cost him a dime.”
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