Google could ‘rig the 2016 election,’ researcher says

News

Google is a web search engine that lets you find other sites on the web based on keyword searches.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google, Inc in September 1998.

The Google website log on page on January 8, 2013.

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.
NEW YORK — By manipulating its search results, Google could decide the next election.

The world’s most-used search engine is so powerful and national elections are so tight, that even a tiny tweak in Google’s secret algorithm could swing the 2016 presidential election, according to Robert Epstein, senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology.

In an op-ed on Politico.com, Epstein said that he and a team of researchers studied behavior in undecided voters who had been exposed to rigged search results. By displaying results that shone a more favorable light on a particular candidate the researchers could shift opinion towards that favored candidate.

The study boosted a candidate’s favorability rating by between 37% and 63% after just one 15-minute search session. The five double-blind, randomized studies included 4,500 undecided voters in the United States and India.

Google did not respond to a request for comment, but the company has said in the past that its algorithm is designed to provide “relevant answers,” and rigging them to favor one view over another “would undermine the people’s trust in our results and company.”

Epstein said Google’s response was “meaningless.”

“How does providing ‘relevant answers’ to election-related questions rule out the possibility of favoring one candidate over another in search rankings? Epstein wrote in his op-ed. “Google’s statement seems far short of a blanket denial that it ever puts its finger on the scales.”

The research suggested that swinging an election was “well within Google’s control,” considering that President Obama won the 2012 election by just 3.9% and the 2016 polling is similarly too close to call.

Though Epstein falls short of saying that Google would rig an election, he points to historical precedent suggesting that Google wouldn’t be alone if it tried.

Epstein pointed to Western Union’s attempt to swing the 1876 presidential election towards its favored candidate, Rutherford B. Hayes. The election was the closest in U.S. history, and Western Union used its telegraph network monopoly and exclusive carriage contract with the Associated Press to ensure that only positive stories about Hayes made it on the wire. Hayes ultimately won by a hair.

On average, Google adjusts its algorithm more than once a day. Epstein said it’s possible that even if the Alphabet triumvirate of Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt didn’t get directly involved in tipping the scales on an election, a rogue employee could tweak the code without the leaders’ knowledge.

“Google could easily be flipping elections worldwide as you read this,” Epstein said.

By David Goldman

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trademark and Copyright 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

About FOX 2 News

FOX 2 and KPLR 11 in St. Louis cover the news in Missouri and Illinois. There are over 68 hours of live news and local programming on-air each week. Our website and live video streams operate 24/7. Download our apps for alerts and follow us on social media for updates in your feed.

President Harry Truman said: “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” That spirit is alive and well at Fox 2. Our teamwork is on display each and every day.

Our news slogan is: “Coverage You Can Count On.” We quite frankly are too busy to worry about who gets the credit. Our main concern is serving the viewer.

We go where the stories take us. Whether it be Washington, D.C when a Belleville man opened fire during a congressional baseball game practice or to Puerto Rico where local Ameren crews restored power after more than 5 months in the dark.

Coverage You Can Count On means “Waking up your Day” with our top-rated morning show. From 4:00 am-10:00 am we are leading the way with breaking news. But our early morning crew also knows how to have some fun! Our strong commitment to the communities we serve is highlighted with our Friday neighborhood shows.

Our investigative unit consists of three reporters. Elliott Davis focuses on government waste, Chris Hayes is our investigative reporter, and Mike Colombo is our consumer reporter. They work in unison with the news department by sharing resources and ideas.

We continue to cover breaking news aggressively and relied on our seasoned journalists to make a difference with the stories we covered. The shooting of Arnold Police Officer Ryan O’Connor is just one example of that. Jasmine Huda was the only reporter who had exclusive access to the O’Connor family during his amazing rehabilitation in Colorado.

Last, but certainly not least, FOX 2 and KPLR 11 are committed to covering local politics. We host debates among candidates and have the most extensive presidential election coverage. Our commitment to politics isn’t just during an election year. We produce two political shows that air every weekend.

Popular

Latest News

More News