Google's information dominance is dangerous especially when it comes to voters

August 22, 2019
In The News

Google is ubiquitous. It’s a site, an Internet ecosystem, an operating system, and its search dominance is unrivaled — Google accounts for as much as 94 percent of browser searches.

With this much power over the flow of information on the Internet, small changes to Google searches have big impacts.

Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO, stated before the House Judiciary Committee last year that “Our algorithms have no notion of political sentiment.” He said “I lead this company without political bias and work to ensure that our products continue to operate that way.”

That is not only false, but laughably false.

We knew it was false even before whistleblowers came forwardputting their own safety at risk, revealing that Google constantly manipulates its search algorithms.

We knew it was false before Google’s search blacklist was published. This document exposed “controversial” terms that yield heavily-filtered results when they are included in a search, including the phrases “pro-life,” the organization “Heritage Foundation,” and even, oddly, the “Las Vegas attack.”

We’ve known it was false for a long time.

In 2015, Dr. Robert Epstein — a research psychologist and Hillary Clinton supporter — published a white paper explaining that “biased search rankings can shift the voting preferences of undecided voters by 20 percent or more.” A lengthy essay in Politico followed.

Google puts its thumb on the scale for search results the moment someone starts typing. Prior to the 2016 election, Google’s ‘autocomplete’ function rarely filled in negative queries about Hillary Clinton (though it did with Trump).

Google searches beginning with “Hillary Clinton is” would suggest “winning” and “awesome,” even though “a liar” was more commonly searched.

A video detailed many more instances of Google’s biased ‘autocomplete’ results, but, unsurprisingly, it’s been pulled from YouTube, which is owned by Google.

When I questioned Pichai in the House Judiciary Committee, I asked if he knew an employee group named “Resist.” The group’s name matched its purpose: a place for anti-Trump Google employees to discuss ideas. Though Pichai denied knowledge of the group, internal communications showed employees’ eagerness to punish conservative sites, limit their reach, and reduce their ability to advertise.

“Anyone want to hold their nose and look through Breitbart.com for hate speech [sp]?”,asked one employee.

Elsewhere in “Resist,” employees rued the 2016 election results, ‘blaming’ conservative news outlets for Trump’s victory. “This was an election of false equivalencies,” one employee wrote disdainfully, “and Google, sadly, had a hand in it. How many times did you see…opinion blogs (Breitbart, Daily Caller) elevated next to legitimate news organizations?” He concluded by exhorting his colleagues: “Let’s make sure we reverse things in four years.”

In other words, he suggested limiting conservative sites, because reading them might have convinced people to vote Republican. That’s not just chilling; it’s un-American.

At Google, anti-Trump animus is not limited to the “Resist” group — it is endemic.

Jen Gennai, Google’s “Head of Responsible Innovation,” spoke about Senator Elizabeth Warren’s plan to break up Google.

Gennai said that while she “loved” Ms. Warren, the proposal was “misguided,” because “smaller companies, who don’t have the same resources that we do, will be charged with preventing the next Trump situation.”

Gennai showed all her cards when she said “We all got screwed over in 2016…so we’ve rapidly been, like, ‘what happened there, and how do we prevent it from happening again?’”

In other words: “what actions can we take to prevent Donald Trump from being re-elected?”

The fact that Google can act behind the scenes to manipulate people — without them knowing, seeing, or recognizing it — is deeply disquieting.

A month ago, Epstein stated that the number of voters who might have been swayed by Google was “at least 2.6 million” and “as many as 10.4 million.” He explained this before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Despite the expected barrage of manufactured outrage from Democrats (including Hillary Clinton), Epstein stands by his research.

Senator Ted Cruz took Dr. Epstein seriously. All Americans should.

Google’s control over information is dangerous. You may love or loathe Donald Trump, but no company should use its dominance over Internet search to sway neutral voters to a specific point of view.

If Google search benefits one political party, or promotes one set of beliefs over another, Google is no longer a distributor of news — they are a publisher, and their immunity under section 230 must be revoked.

Once upon a time, Google’s motto was “don’t be evil.”

What changed?

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