Big Brother Is in Your House and in Your Voting Booth
If you’ve been feeling a bit nervous lately about Google-and-the-Gang — well, it’s about time. Google, and, to a lesser extent, other tech companies in the U.S. and China, pose the most serious threats to democracy, free speech and human autonomy that humanity has ever faced.
Recent surveys by the prestigious Pew Research Center in the U.S. confirm Americans are becoming increasingly concerned about how their private data is being used by Google-and-the-Gang and even about the ability of these companies to influence our elections.
If only people knew what I knew. They wouldn’t just be concerned. They would have nightmares.
Since 2013, I have been conducting two kinds of research that have revealed a sinister side to Big Tech. First, I have been conducting randomized, controlled experiments — experiments adhering to the very highest standards of scientific integrity — that have revealed and quantified the power tech monopolies have to alter people’s thinking and behavior without their knowledge. Along the way, I have discovered about a dozen new means of influence that the internet has made possible and that are controlled exclusively by a handful of U.S. tech companies and, within the boundaries of its Great Firewall, the Chinese government.
Second, I set up the world’s first passive monitoring systems: Nielsen-type systems that allowed me to look over the shoulders of real people — with their permission — as they were using the internet in the weeks leading up to the 2016 and 2018 elections in the U.S. These systems allowed me to see whether Google and other companies were actually using the new forms of manipulation I had discovered.
Both types of research have uncovered a world of bad news. Among other things:
The search engine is the most powerful mind-control machine ever invented, and because more than 90 percent of searches are conducted on just one search engine in almost every country in the world, Google is, on a daily basis, influencing the thinking, behavior, attitudes, beliefs, purchases and votes of more than 2.5 billion people worldwide — with no one able to counteract what the company is doing.
As of 2015, Google’s search engine was determining the outcomes of upward of 25 percent of the national elections in the world, and, with internet penetration increasing rapidly, that number has almost certainly gone up since. This is because many national elections are won by razor-thin margins (Julia Gillard and her party won the 2010 election in Australia by a mere 0.24 percent of the vote), and because search results that favor one candidate can easily shift the voting preferences of undecided voters — by up to 80 percent in some demographic groups.
By manipulating search terms — those phrases Google flashes at you while you’re typing a query into its search bar — Google has the power to turn a 50/50 split among undecided voters into an astonishing 90/10 split with no one having the slightest idea he or she is being manipulated.
In both 2016 and 2018, we found substantial political bias on the Google search engine — but not on Bing or Yahoo — bias sufficient to have shifted between 2.6 and 10.4 million votes in the presidential race of 2016 and upward of 78.2 million votes to candidates of one party in 2018.