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Google Politics

Can Google Influence Elections? 138

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the meme-cat-told-me-to-vote-for-kodos dept.
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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Can Google Influence Elections?

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  • Big deal (Score:5, Funny)

    by Vuojo (1547799) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @04:13AM (#46987639)
    Google will be renamed Weyland-Yutani at some point anyways...
    • Re:Big deal (Score:5, Interesting)

      by FriendlyLurker (50431) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @04:58AM (#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 (Score:5, Insightful)

        by flyneye (84093) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @06:04AM (#46987969) Homepage

        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 (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TheDarkMaster (1292526) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @08:00AM (#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 (Score:5, Interesting)

          by currently_awake (1248758) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @09:17AM (#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.
          • 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.
      • 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 (Score:4, Interesting)

        by PopeRatzo (965947) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @08:43AM (#46988851) Homepage Journal

        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.

      • 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.

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        I think a bigger problem from the internet is the self imposed information bubble people put themselves into. They pick and choose only the news they want to hear, news that agrees with their political views. Because search engines attempt to provide "relevant" search results they are feeding this bubble. What is needed is a way to hear opposing viewpoints, and not in a context of "listen to what the lunatics think" in the style of of news outlets.

    • by pr0nbot (313417)

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

  • Hmmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @04:15AM (#46987645) Journal
    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.
    • 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]

    • by augahyde (1016980)
      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.
      • If that's what you're concerned about, try DuckDuckGo [duckduckgo.com].
      • Re:Hmmm... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @06:42AM (#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.)

        • by Fnord666 (889225)

          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].

          • 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, bu

        • 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.

          • 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.

            Yes, absolutely. And some people -- probably most people -- would find that useful. Most people love to hear about things that agree with them or that they're interested in, which is why they subscribe to some extreme Socialist newsletter or some Libertarian magazine.

            There are two problems with Google, though: (1) it doesn't make the process transparent: most people don't even realize this is happening, and (2) there is no way to control the process and tweak it according to your preferences. To take a

      • by jbolden (176878)

        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... :)

      • Google News is just the opposite, though -- it presents you with versions of a story from many different papers/slants/countries so you can see all sides of the story when you normally wouldn't. Of course, you still have to click.
        • by augahyde (1016980)
          Can you offer proof or is it anecdotal?
          • Proof? Go to http://news.google.com/ [google.com] and observe how each story has numerous different versions of it linked.
            • by augahyde (1016980)
              So anecdotal then. Neither Google or a peer reviewed publication shows that Google News presents a purely unbiased look that ignores my preference for articles. The articles that are presented to me again focus on topics that Google believes I am interested in. The closest you get to unbiased selection is from the spotlight and editor's picks -- and those are necessarily biased, particularly the editor's picks.
    • by TapeCutter (624760) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @05:31AM (#46987889) Journal
      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.".
  • by EasyTarget (43516) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @04:20AM (#46987665) Journal

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

  • by l3v1 (787564) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @04:20AM (#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 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pablo_max (626328) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @04:27AM (#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.

    • by bmajik (96670) <matt@mattevans.org> on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @04:54AM (#46987805) Homepage Journal

      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...

      • by Anonymous Coward

        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

        • 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: 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 muc

          • Eight? I only knew of three when I voted for her*, but whatever. I don't really understand why pushing for constitutional amendments automatically makes someone a lunatic. It is not the most practical or probable solution to a problem. Unfortunately once the Supreme Court has weighed in on something like "money is speech," then it if the people want to change it, pretty much the only option is a change to the constitution. Seems like enough people on the left and right agree with this basic theory.

            *I work f

            • Expecting eight constitutional amendments to be passed to make her agenda work is ridiculous.

              Since 1800, we've managed less than one per decade. She needs a minimum of one per year to carry out the platform she was running on.

              Which essentially means that Congress would have to approve the eight amendments within the first year of her term, to give even a minute chance of them passing before she retired.

              Unless the Green Party managed a 2/3 majority of both houses of Congress (which wasn't in the cards,

      • 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.

        • 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.
        • by swillden (191260)

          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 re

      • 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.

    • by asylumx (881307)

      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

      • by jmyers (208878)

        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

        • 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.
        • by pablo_max (626328)

          The people that would be influenced by Google are the same ones influenced by People magazine and major TV networks.

          I think that you have not understood.

          Google is not directly influencing in the scenario I laid out as you would see from a newspaper article or so.
          What Google could do is far more influential.
          What do you when you want to learn about something? Chances are, like most folks, you do a Google search and read the related articles, right? Of course you do. How else would you find it?
          Let's say you are climate change denier and you want to find articles which reinforce your view or to persuade others to think like

    • 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.

      For example: https://www.google.com/search?q=santorum [google.com]

      Although that was an independent campaign to influence Google results rather than an action internal to Google.

  • 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 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by StripedCow (776465) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @04:50AM (#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]

    • by u38cg (607297)
      Because representative democracy. The Athenians tried democracy for reals and it was a fucking disaster.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        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.

        • by u38cg (607297)
          Yeah, because the problem with Athenian democracy was that there weren't enough people involved. Right.
    • "blame" - like it wasn't in their interest to be the ones who take the real decisions...
    • 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.
      • 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".

  • by Anonymous Coward

    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.

  • by protoporos (900257) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @05:40AM (#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".
    • 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.

    • 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"

  • ...stimulate *erections*

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

  • by Anonymous Coward

    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: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "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

    • 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.
  • by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot@NospAm.keirstead.org> on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @06:21AM (#46988029) Homepage
    "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.
    • by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @08:49AM (#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.

  • by Gorkamecha (948294) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @06:31AM (#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.
    • by u38cg (607297)
      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...
      • by swillden (191260)

        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]

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

  • 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.
    • 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 th

  • 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.

  • 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 candida

    • its not as bleak as you make it out to be. bribing is prevalent, it seems. but booth capturing is rare and there's a lot of noise if there's a hint of anything like that happening anywhere.

      The prime ministerial candidate from the currently ruling party was caught doing exactly that.

      incorrect. he was just looking at the machine and talking to polling officials. even this behavior is unacceptable but it's still far away from capturing the booth.

      The voting machine could be watching you.

      now you're just being paranoid. there is no way the EVM could be storing any info about the voter because there is no way to enter that info, no way to store

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

  • 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".
  • I just googled "Can Google Influence Elections?" -
    Four of the top five hits are certain that it can (the other one is slashdot).

    That's alarming. I didn't know that before I googled it.

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