Is Google trying to influence American citizens about politics?


Is Google trying to influence American citizens about politics? When you use Google to search, are you giving them the data to manipulate you as a voter? We know more people, especially young people, get most of their political news using a search engine linking to interesting articles for political information and news about political candidates. Now, imagine that your search results have been manipulated. Dr. Robert Epstein, Senior Research Psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, researched potential search engine manipulation and voter outcomes. “We’ve discovered that search engine rankings can be manipulated in ways that dramatically change voter preferences,” Epstein told PBS News Hour’sHariSreenivasanin a Google Hangout, April 2, 2013.What Does This Mean?The implications are huge because manipulating search engine results has the potential to determine who wins and who loses elections, according to Epstein. It means:A company could influence the outcome of political elections.No one would know they are being manipulated while it was happening.There is no way to balance, correct, or counteract what the company manipulating you is doing.Search engines alone can shift peoples vote.How Are People Influenced?Epstein found that search placement affects people’s thinking because we tend to place greater trust in higher-ranked search results. By manipulating those rankings, they are manipulating trust and applying it to political candidates.OutcomesStatistically, Epstein proved that voters decide to vote for a candidate and are effected by manipulation a full fifteenpercentthatpercentage is enough to determine the outcome of anelectionworse, no one knows they are being manipulated. Search engine companies can support one candidate over another by altering rankings, and no one will know.What about Traditional News Media?TheObama2012 Presidential campaign turned from using the long time and dominant medium of television advertising in political campaigns to the new data analytics to win the election vote by vote. Its been calledmicrotargetingormicrolisteningto mine for swing voters. The campaign created statistical models that coordinated voter attitudes and preferences on every imaginable issue, and developed software that allowed a national campaign to run like a localelectiontheinterests and preferences of individual voters were data mined and used to swing the vote.StatisticsOne zettabyte equals the number 1 with 21 zeros at the end.According to Siemens USA, azettabyteis a full 50 percent MORE than all of the grains of sand on all of the beaches on Earth.If we project to 2020, all of the digital Big Data stored will reach 40zettabytes.During the span of just one decade, the Big Data collected will increase fifty times.The Big Data collected on EACH man, woman and child will equal the content of 3 million books.Money spent ononlineads through mid-October 2012:Romney Campaign – $26 millionObamaCampaign – $52 millionPercentage of votes cast forObamaby early voters in Hamilton, County, Ohio (Battleground State):ObamaCampaign Model 57.68%Actual Result 57.16%Television Commercials aired on TV Land (National Cable Level):ObamaCampaign 1,710Romney Campaign 0Obviously, theObamaCampaign successfully built virtual profiles of swing voters they believed were in play or could be swayed. Big Data was secured by getting data from vendors like Google and the campaign paired that data to potential swing voters. After the election, key investor, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, enabled those working in the campaign to continue data mining by keeping the team together under the new organization, Civic Analytics. The company only works for democratic candidates.Is Big Data Smart Data?Processes forcollecting information (Big Data)is already in place. Capturing Big Data is one thing; analyzing it and making sense of it is another. This is the next transition–understanding the data collected and creating usable reports and ideas that turn Big Data into Smart Data.DirectionsRead the Summary of a paper presented by Robert Epstein, Ph.D., and Ronald E. Robertson, Abstract: Democracy at Risk: Manipulating Search Rankings Can Shift Voters Preferences Substantially the article in MIT Technology Review, How PresidentObamasCampaign Used Big Data to Rally Individual Voters by SashaIssenberg. a One-page response addressing the issue of Big Data and the manipulation of search engine rankings to dramatically change voter preferences. Is this the future of media in campaigns and elections?

Introduction: Is Google manipulating American citizens through the search engine results? This question was raised when Dr. Robert Epstein, Senior Research Psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, revealed that search engine rankings could be manipulated to change voter preferences. According to Epstein, this manipulation could happen without anyone knowing about it, and that search engine companies could alter rankings to support one candidate over another, which could significantly affect the outcome of elections. But how does this manipulation work, and can traditional news media still influence voters?

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Description: With more people, particularly young ones, using search engines as their primary source of political news, the implications of manipulating search engine results are enormous. Dr. Robert Epstein discovered that search placement affects a person’s thinking because higher-ranked search results are perceived as more trustworthy. By manipulating the rankings, manipulators can manipulate trust and apply it to political candidates. Dr. Epstein’s research also showed that a full fifteen percent of voters can be influenced by manipulation. This percentage is enough to determine the outcome of an election, and what’s worse, no one can detect the manipulation while it happens. The Obama 2012 Presidential campaign successfully used Big Data analytics to win the election, micro-targeting swing voters in every imaginable issue, and developed software that allowed a national campaign to run like a localelectiontheinterests and preferences of individual voters were data mined and used to swing the vote. This shows how Big Data collected through digital channels can significantly influence the outcome of elections. With Google accounting for a considerable portion of online ads, the concern about the manipulation of search engine results cannot be overemphasized.

– To understand the potential impact of search engine manipulation on American politics
– To discuss the implications of manipulating search engine results on voter outcomes
– To explore the role of Big Data in political campaigns

Learning Outcomes:
– Participants will be able to identify the ways in which search engine rankings can be manipulated
– Participants will be able to explain how search engine manipulation can influence voter preferences
– Participants will be able to evaluate the potential impact of search engine manipulation on election outcomes
– Participants will be able to discuss the use of Big Data in political campaigns and its impact on voter behavior.

The objectives and learning outcomes listed above are related to the content provided in the text. The objectives aim to educate the participants about the potential implications of search engine manipulation and Big Data on political campaigns. The learning outcomes are designed to ensure that the participants can acquire the knowledge and skills required to understand and analyze the available data and discuss the impact of these factors on voter behavior and election outcomes.

Solution 1: Regulating Search Engine Manipulation

The issue of search engine manipulation is alarming as it has the potential to influence democracies by affecting voter preferences and ultimately deciding election outcomes. Therefore, governments should regulate search engine companies to prevent such manipulation. This could be done by enacting laws to prohibit the use of algorithms to give undue prominence to particular candidates or viewpoints. Moreover, regulators could require search engine companies to disclose the criteria for ranking search results. This would promote transparency, enhancing the credibility of search engine companies and preventing voter manipulation.

Solution 2: Promoting Media Literacy

Another approach towards countering search engine manipulation is through promoting media literacy among citizens, especially young people. While search engines can influence voter preferences, the users must still evaluate the information and decide whether to support a particular candidate. Therefore, by enhancing the media literacy of citizens, they can evaluate the facts presented critically, thereby minimizing the risk of manipulation. In this regard, governments could invest in educational programs that equip people with the skills required to critically evaluate information and identify fake news. This would enable individuals to make informed decisions, reducing the chances of search engine manipulation influencing election outcomes.

Suggested Resources/Books:
1. “The Filter Bubble: How the New Personalized Web Is Changing What We Read and How We Think” by Eli Pariser
2. “Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy” by Cathy O’Neil
3. “The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns” by Sasha Issenberg
4. “Cyberwarfare: Techniques, Tactics and Tools for Security Practitioners” by Jason Andress and Steve Winterfeld
5. “The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads” by Tim Wu

Similar asked questions:
1. How is big data influencing political campaigns?
2. Can search engines manipulate voter preferences during elections?
3. What are the ethical considerations of using big data in politics?
4. How can voters protect themselves from manipulation through social media and search engines?
5. Is online advertising more effective than traditional television advertising in political campaigns?

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