Manipulation of Votes and Media Threatens Our Nation
Manipulation of Votes and Media Threatens Our Nation
Not many people may have seen the recent Senate hearings on media manipulation where Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) quizzed a psychologist about how companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and others manipulate public opinion in favor of their chosen politicians and views.
The witness, Dr. Robert Epstein, is a liberal Democrat, was a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton in 2016, and is the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today. It’s not like the left can claim that Dr. Epstein is a conservative with an agenda – as a matter of fact, he chuckles a bit at the idea. But what he discusses in his testimony is no laughing matter, because Google and other companies can and do manipulate search results to achieve a desired political outcome, according to his research. Dr. Epstein claims that despite his leftist leanings, he is interested in two things: objectivity and the preservation of democracy, and his research shows clearly that the manipulation of search results and certain behaviors on the part of social media giants and search engines can and does sway the results of elections.
This testimony should be frightening to any American interested in ensuring that the system of government created by our Founding Fathers remains intact.
Frankly, this manipulation is no different from what the Russians are doing when they use active measures to fundamentally change the way Americans engage with one another and process information fed to them by the mass media and Big Tech.
But it’s not just Big Tech.
Media manipulation writ large is destroying our trust in available reporting. Americans no longer have to read an article or analyze the veracity of its content. They simply look at the title and the provider and roll their eyes. “Oh, this is from CNN,” or “Oh, this is from Breitbart.” And when we don’t read content, but simply judge the report based on the title and the provider, those habits become ingrained, and we become easier to manipulate.
Take the following example.
CNN reported a few days ago on a man who was deported to Iraq and subsequently died there.
“He died after being deported to a country he didn’t know,” sobbed the CNN headline.
“Iraqi national who’d lived whole life in US dies shortly after being deported to Iraq,” wailed an earlier CNN report.
Feel sorry for the poor soul. He had diabetes. He didn’t have medicine in Iraq. So what, if he had a lengthy criminal record?
The type of criminal history Jimmy Aldaoud had was buried in the middle of the story, after a heartwrenching account of poor Jimmy’s inability to get insulin in Iraq, his lack of familiarity with the country, and his pleas to ICE to allow him to remain in the country where he committed numerous crimes.
Aldaoud had an extensive criminal history “that involved no less than 20 convictions between 1998-2017,” a Detroit ICE official told CNN, including assault with a dangerous weapon, domestic violence, contempt of court, failure to appear, breaking and entering, malicious destruction of a building, home invasion and possession of marijuana. His criminal history ultimately led to him being incarcerated and transferred to ICE custody in the early 2000s, Bajoka said.
By the time the reader reaches this vital information (if they even get past the first couple of paragraphs), their emotions have already been tweaked, they already have their bias against the heartless Trump confirmed, and they vent their rage on social media.
This video is of Jimmy taken in Baghdad two weeks after his deportation. I’m sharing with permission from Jimmy’s lawyers. Jimmy has been in the US since he was 6mo old—he was born in a refugee camp in Greece to Iraqi Christian parents. RIP#JimmyAldaoud https://t.co/1182x6GRAY pic.twitter.com/KF8RUOtKiH
— Mari Manoogian (@MariManoogian) August 8, 2019
Things on the right are no better. On Twitter, readers are complaining that Aldaoud was here illegally, and therefore deserved to be deported, showing they never actually read the entire article or simply failed to understand it.
Example #2: Yahoo News recently published a report with the following headline:
Frightened by shootings, appalled at Trump, Americans are voting with their feet — to leave
There’s only one problem – that’s not what the story says.
Americans are not flocking to the exits, but some of them are thinking about it, and some are talking about it, and at least a few are acting on the idea. Google searches for terms like “how to move out of America” spiked this past weekend to levels not seen since November 2016, right after the presidential election, and last seen a decade ago during the Great Recession. And in dozens of interviews after the massacres in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, people who were born here spoke of their crystallizing desire to leave.
Let’s remember how many liberal celebrities promised to leave the country if Trump got elected.
The decidedly not funny “comedienne” niece of Chuck Schumer, Amy Schumer, the nutjob Chelsea Handler, Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad” fame, Cher, Samuel L. Jackson, who promised to move his black ass to South Africa where he would no doubt be allowed to victimize white people if he so chose, Miley Cyrus (why, oh why is that unhinged flake still around?), and scores of others were swearing off the United States and looking to leave. How many of those idiots are still around?
Point is, Americans are not voting with their feet, and they’re certainly not leaving the country, but the headline screams just that, and most readers won’t get past it before they stroke their confirmation biases about how Trump is dismantling the nation.
The media manipulation is pervasive and sometimes blatant, and the tech companies are using tools at their disposal to manipulate Americans into action by tweaking search results and drawing attention to particular stories, no matter how biased these reports are.
As Dr. Epstein indicated in his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the results of his research showed a dangerous trend in voter manipulation.
On Election Day in 2018, the “Go Vote” reminder Google displayed on its home page gave one political party between800,000 and 4.6 million more votes than it gave the other party.Those numbers might seem impossible, but I published my analysis in January 2019 (Epstein, 2019a),and it is quite conservative. Google’s data analysts presumably performed the same calculations I did before the company decided to post its prompt. In other words,Google’s“Go Vote” prompt was not a public service; it was a vote manipulation.
In the weeks leading up to the 2018 election, bias in Google’s search results may have shifted upwards of 78.2 million votes to the candidates of one political party (spread across hundreds of local and regional races). This number is based on data captured by my 2018 monitoring system, which preserved more than 47,000 election-related searches on Google, Bing, and Yahoo, along with the nearly 400,000 web pages to which the search results linked. Strong political bias toward one party was evident, once again,in Google searches (Epstein & Williams, 2019).
I urge you to read the entire testimony. It’s a fascinating and appalling read that documents unbiased research – from an admittedly leftist source – that should give everyone pause. Yes, we know the media is biased. Yes, we know tech companies are biased. We’ve amply covered the deplatforming and silencing of conservative voices over the past couple of years on this blog.
But this is more than that. This is underhanded manipulation based on the Russians’ (and the Soviets’ before them) model of undermining the society of the West – and their own people – to achieve predetermined results.
Google, Facebook, and others have become the very thing they claim to despise: purveyors of misinformation and disinformation and manipulators of audiences to achieve a predetermined election result.
Google’s “autocomplete search” suggestions can turn the tide of an election – transforming a 50/50 split into a 90/10 without the people’s awareness, according to Epstein’s research. And Google has likely been determining the outcomes of upwards of 25 percent of the national elections worldwide since at least 2015.
Care to know what company was the sole largest contributor to Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016?
It’s not that I’m advocating for government control of Big Tech, social media, and media outlets writ large. Absolutely NOT! I do, however, think it’s healthy to expose the continued manipulation and start countering it – in our schools, in our households, and in person.
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