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Top Psychology Expert Warns That Google Could Manipulate Elections

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Robert Epstein, senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology and former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today, warns that Google could manipulate political elections worldwide. For example, the Internet giant could decide the outcome of the 2016 presidential election in the US by manipulating search results.

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Google’s search algorithm can easily shift the voting preferences of undecided voters by 20 percent or more – up to 80 percent in some demographic groups – with virtually no one knowing they are being manipulated,” Epstein writes on Politico.

Our new research leaves little doubt about whether Google has the ability to control voters.

The Search Engine Manipulation Effect Might Determine an Election Outcome

Google searchOf course there is nothing new in the fact that the media are able to tweak elections results. But Google has arguably achieved unprecedented influence in the voters’ choices. The core idea is simple: today, more and more people aren’t dependent on a single news source but read news and opinions horizontally across all media, and Google search is the starting point.

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Since most people stick to the top of the first page of search results, and in view of the fact that that many elections are won by small margins, tweaking the order of Google search results in favor of – or against – a position or a candidate could decide the outcome of an election.

“Providing relevant answers has been the cornerstone of Google’s approach to search from the very beginning,” is the comment of a Google spokesperson reported by The Washington Post. “It would undermine people’s trust in our results and company if we were to change course.”

Epstein’s research is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) with the title “The search engine manipulation effect (SEME) and its possible impact on the outcomes of elections.”

The research paper, which is freely accessible online, presents evidence from five experiments in two countries suggesting the power and robustness of the search engine manipulation effect. Knowing the proportion of undecided voters in a population who have Internet access, along with the proportion of those voters who can be influenced using SEME, allows one to calculate the win margin below which SEME might be able to determine an election outcome.

Epstein explores three scenarios whereby Google could shape or even decide the US election next year. In the first, Google’s executives decide which candidate is best and choose the next President. In the second, the choice is made by a rogue Google employee with the authority or ability to tweak search results, without Google even knowing.

And in the third scenario, it’s the search algorithm itself that makes the choice. Epstein notes that Google’s search results ranking algorithm is secret, and Google acknowledges adjusting the algorithm all the time based on many parameters including search keywords and users’ behavior, so an invisible collective hand could influence the algorithms and determine the election result.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. sophiejanesays

    August 21, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    It’s not manipulation if it’s not done with that intent. Influencing != manipulation. I agree that it is a concern, but “manipulation” is a bit hyperbolic, at least in the case of scenario 3. Scenarios 1 & 2 are, of course, an example of actual manipulation on the part of Google employees. Then again, Super PACs and corporate donations are also examples of active manipulation on the part of individuals/corporations, and that apparently, is perfectly fine with many people. I think we should be far more wary and concerned about those in U.S. politics than Google’s search rankings.

    • Rod

      August 25, 2015 at 2:17 pm

      How you guarantee that the google did not in intentional way? If i know well a lot of Google directors are Democrats and a lot of ex-googlers work for obama

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House Pushes Forward With Trump Tax Plan Amid Dissent

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The U.S. House of Representatives is pushing hard to move President Trump’s tax proposal through the legislative process, even as growing dissent rattles confidence in the landmark bill.

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Congressional Analysis

An analysis by the Joint Committee on Taxation concluded Tuesday that tax cuts for lower- and middle-income Americans would fade over the next decade at a faster rate than those for high earners. The analysis found that four out of every five tax filers earning between $50,000 and $75,000 would receive tax relief from the bill in 2019. However, by 2027, that figure would drop to 60%.

Meanwhile, those earning more than $1 million would also see their tax savings fade, albeit at a slower rate than the smaller income brackets. In 2019, about three-quarters of those earning $1 million-plus will get tax relief, a figure that drops to two-thirds in 2027.

The conclusion could spark another round of debate as the Trump administration seeks to push forward on tax reform this year. The tax plan has faced attack from both sides of the political divide, with high-tax state Republicans criticizing individual deductions for state and local taxes.

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The reform bill, which promises to reduce the number of tax brackets, cut the corporate tax rate and implement a one-time repatriation fee, has been described as the most ambitious since the Reagan administration. Through Reagan’s tax reform, the U.S. economy managed to grow by an average of 3.4% annually until the beginning of the Obama administration. And that includes three recessions between the two presidents.

To his credit, President Jimmy Carer before him implemented the biggest regulatory overhaul in postwar history.

Mid-Terms Loom

Republicans have good reason to raise questions about Trump’s tax reform, especially those in high-tax states such as California. Already faced with a difficult re-election next year, California’s GOP Representative Darrell Issa said he wouldn’t endorse changes that “may make it the tremendous burden felt by California taxpayers even worse.”

Republican Ed Gillespie of Virginia was defeated in state elections on Tuesday, a clear sign that the GOP-controlled Congress is under attack. South Carolina is seen as an important barometer of the Democrats’ chances of winning in crucial swing states ahead of next year’s midterms.

Democrat Ralph Northam will be the next governor of Virgina, various news outlets reported late Tuesday.

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Libertarian Speaks: Ron Paul Says U.S. Government Should Not Intervene in Cryptocurrency

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The U.S. government has no place intervening in cryptocurrency, according to former U.S. presidential candidate Ron Paul.

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In an interview with Kitco on Oct. 27, Paul said the government should “stay out” of bitcoin if people want to use it. The former Congressman acknowledged that he didn’t know much about cryptocurrency, but that he was “amazed” by the market’s growth.

“I take some very strong political positions on competing currencies,” Paul said, when asked if he was a believer of cryptocurrency. “And if you can come up with a competing currency, and there is no fraud, I think it should be.”

Although a lot has been said about bitcoin’s black market roots, Paul says government involvement shouldn’t be a given. That message has been lost on several nations, which have grown uneasy about the growth and widespread adoption of cryptocurrency. Major economies like  China, South Korea and Russia have already stepped in to halt the expansion of crypto-assets.  However, most policymakers appear to be open to regulating cryptocurrency insofar as its criminal elements can be controlled.

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Libertarians like Ron Paul are very weary of government involvement in all aspects of life. It should therefore come as no surprise that bitcoin and its altcoin competitors have received strong buy-in from the libertarian, free market community. While the United States has a strong libertarian presence across key segments of its society, this has largely failed to translate into meaningful political reform.

Bitcoin’s market capitalization climbed back above $100 billion over the weekend, with the sum of all coins valued at around $179 billion. Cryptocurrency is by far the fastest growing asset class of 2017, dwarfing stocks, crude oil and other traditional financial assets.

“I am amazed,” Paul said, ” at all the capitalization on these cryptocurrencies. It’s a huge amount of money.”

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Draft of U.S. Tax Bill Coming Within Days, According to GOP Lawmaker

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It won’t be long now before congressional Republicans table their first draft bill to reform the U.S. tax code, according to House conservative Mark Meadows. GOP lawmakers are under the gun to meet President Trump’s ambitious goal of delivering a major tax overhaul by the end of 2017.

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Draft Bill Coming in Less Than Ten Days

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows says the House Ways and Means Committee has promised to release a preliminary tax bill about seven days after this Thursday’s vote on a budget resolution. Based on that timeline, the tax bill should be published on or before Nov. 3, according to Bloomberg.

Last week, Republicans stuck together to pass a 2018 budget plan that many say is the preamble to tax reform. The budget resolution was approved by a 51-49 vote. Rand Paul of Kentucky was the lone GOP member to vote against the measure.

Before giving the final approval, lawmakers must go through another voting process that will begin Thursday and run into Friday morning.

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The new plan, which was first unveiled by the White House this past spring, is pursuing drastic changes to the tax regime. This includes reducing the number of tax brackets, slashing the corporate tax rate and instilling a one-time repatriation tax to encourage multinationals to bring offshore profits back home.

Challenges Remain

President Trump and fellow Republicans face numerous challenges implementing the most ambitious tax reform of a generation. This includes balancing promises of major overhaul against a self-imposed $1.5 trillion limit on the size of those cuts over the decade.

Analysts say that President Trump has considerable leeway to influence the proposal, but that the ultimate penning of the bill is a legislative process. This means it will be Congress, not the president, that will put the final details together.

Tax overhaul was a cornerstone of Trump’s election campaign. Combined with deregulation of key industries and massive infrastructure spending, tax breaks are expected to boost economic growth and make the U.S. more resilient to cyclical downturns.

That’s exactly what happened under the Reagan tax cut more than three decades ago. Although often maligned today, the Reagan tax plan laid the foundation for 25 years of strong, noninflationary growth. The U.S. economy grew an average of 3.4% annually between Reagan and Obama despite three recessions. To be sure, President Carter also helped lay the foundation by leading the biggest deregulatory effort in the postwar era.

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