Streetwise Professor

August 21, 2019

Hillary (and Google) Deny That Google Can Influence Voter Behavior, Which Would Imply That Google Is the Greatest Fraud Ever

Filed under: Politics — cpirrong @ 6:52 pm

The latest Trump tweet-induced hysteria (other than Greenland!) was his claim that Google had thrown millions of votes to Hillary by manipulating search results to favor her. Trump invoked research performed by a Google gadfly, psychiatrist Robert Epstein. It turns out that the president exaggerated the number of votes that Epstein claims Google influenced, but even Epstein’s 10+ million (vs. Trump’s 16+ million) is hardly an immaterial number.

By having the temerity to challenge Hillary’s narrative that she wuz robbed, she claimed that the study had been “debunked” and called out her flying monkeys to attack Dr. Epstein.

(As someone replied to me on Twitter, that smile is something Hillary has seen humans use.)

The gravamen of the alleged debunking was that Epstein had relied on a small sample of experimental subjects to extrapolate how prioritizing search results could affect voter behavior. As someone well aware of the reproducibility problem, especially in experimental psychology, this is a potentially valid concern.

But that was not the entirety of Dr. Epstein’s research. He presents evidence that Google did in fact slant its search results in her favor. The question is whether such slanting would change voting behavior.

You want to know who believes it changes behavior? Google, that’s who. Its entire business model is built on it. Google’s profits, and its stratospheric stock price, are dependent on its ability to extract rents (from advertising, etc.) by prioritizing search results.

In other words, Google is the last entity you should believe if they say that prioritizing search results doesn’t affect behavior. If that is actually true, then the company is the biggest commercial and stock fraud in the history of the universe.

So here’s a dare for Google. Disclose the news algos. The ones you use now, and the ones you used in 2016. Further, disclose all of the internal research (much done under the direction of my former colleague, the brilliant Hal Varian) that studies how search results affect behavior, how Google should price prioritization, and how much money Google makes by optimizing its search results. Disclose any research relating to how prioritization of news searches affects voting outcomes. Also disclose how much money Google spends on its algorithms, including R&D. If the algos don’t matter, they wouldn’t spend anything on them.

Then we can see whether Google is a colossal fraud, or whether it actually can (and does) affect behavior–including voter behavior.

It is beyond bizarre that people obsess over a few retarded Facebook ads allegedly placed by the Russians, and ignore the Godzilla–Googzilla?–in the room. Google makes billions manipulating behavior. And if you think it is beyond manipulating behavior for political purposes, and especially if you believe Russian trolls are better than Google at manipulating behavior for political purposes, you are a fool and a knave.

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  1. If controlling the results of searches and the placement of ads is something Google charges money for, then doing it for a candidate is a quantifiable in-kind campaign contribution, illegal under campaign finance law. We can do more than issue a dare, let’s get some subpoenas out on this.

    Comment by M. Rad. — August 21, 2019 @ 9:52 pm

  2. Remember Trump’s tweet about covfefe?

    That was a trap set for Google and they walked right into it.

    Comment by Joe Walker — August 25, 2019 @ 6:07 pm

  3. Like you said:

    Comment by Dave Mason — August 28, 2019 @ 8:04 pm

  4. @Dave–Thanks.

    Have you seen The Creepy Line? Well worth a watch, though it’s quite disturbing. I will write about it soon.

    Comment by cpirrong — August 28, 2019 @ 9:11 pm

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