Big Tech’s biggest threat to democracy isn’t censorship or privacy: it’s election manipulation.
At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, “Google and Censorship through Search Engines,” Dr. Robert Epstein, who researches the impact of Google, informed the hearing that “upwards of 15 million votes” were in jeopardy in the 2020 election. During his testimony, Epstein told Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) that in 2016, Google gave at least 2.6 million votes to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, “through bias and search results.” He stressed that was the lowest number.
When questioned further by Cruz, Epstein gave a more concise answer: “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. They control these and no one can counteract them. These are not competitive. These are tools that they have at their disposal exclusively.”
Cruz was shocked by this, responding, “If any headline comes out of this hearing, that should be it.”
Epstein further warned, “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.”
Cruz reminded those at the hearing that Google’s parent company, Alphabet, was Clinton’s biggest corporate supporter in 2016. The company donated $1.6 million to the former Secretary of State, according to OpenSecrets.org.
The senator asked Epstein after his testimony if it was true 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 gave the troubling answer, “Senator, with respect I must correct you. If Mark Zuckerberg chooses to send out a go vote reminder to just Democrats on election day, that doesn’t cost him a dime.”
Cruz voiced the fears of the GOP when it came to Big Tech, saying “we have no way of knowing if Google or Facebook or Twitter sends things to Democrats or Republicans or how they bias it because its a black box with no transparency or accountability whatsoever.”
Epstein suggested that Congress move to make Google’s search index public, which would simply reshape the company slightly and make its decisions to rank and order information more transparent.