The scariest thing about Google Search is the algorithms and changes that users don’t see.
Dr. Robert Epstein of AIRBT has spent years studying Google and the algorithms behind it. In a study released in April of 2018, Epstein and his colleagues wrote of experiments done to prove that search suggestions can “be used to shift opinions and voting preferences dramatically and without people’s awareness.” As a followup to that study, Epstein tweeted two of his latest experiments with Google Search. When a user typed in “top races d-”, the first suggestion was “top races Democrat.” When a user typed in “top races r-,” the first suggestion was “top racist Republican.”
“This #manipulation is so ridiculously blatant that it has to be some nerdy software engineer’s idea of a joke. Think about it: ‘races’ gets a red underline (meaning it’s not recognized as a real word) ONLY when it’s followed by an ‘r.’ The serious manipulations are invisible,” Epstein tweeted.
In an interview with Dr. Epstein, the Media Research Center confirmed Google eventually fixed this hiccup, but only after a long wait.
This tweet was followed up by another one on November 27. When Epstein searched for “liberals are” in the Google Search box, no suggestions came up. When he searched “conservatives are,” three suggestions popped up. One was “conservatives are more likely to support,” another was “conservatives are irate,” and the third was “conservatives are irate the parkland shooter.”
Epstein told the MRC, “Most of the traffic from these suggestions was led to stories that wrote that fear and anxiety was what drove conservatives’ attitudes. Google is driving a massive amount of people to look at negative content about conservatives.”
In his tweet, Epstein showed that Yahoo, which still made suggestions based on the top searches on the platform, provided a more reasonable list of suggestions for both terms. The term “liberals are” had just as many negative suggestions pop up as the term “conservatives are.”
“One of the simplest ways #GSA (Google Surveillance and Advertising) shifts opinions is by suppressing negative search suggestions for candidates or causes they support,” he wrote on his tweet.