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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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Giulio Prisco is a freelance writer specialized in science, technology, business and future studies.




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  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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Market Overview

Markets on Edge as President Trump Cancels North Korea Meeting

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U.S. President Donald Trump has called off a highly anticipated meeting with North Korea, citing “anger and open hostility” from Pyongyang.

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Strained Diplomacy

President Trump was scheduled to meet Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12 to advance a preliminary peace agreement between North Korea and South Korea. The Trump administration pledged peace and economic cooperation with the North Korean regime if it agreed to relinquish its nuclear arsenal.

Pyongyang took a combative stance last week in response to joint military drills between the United States and South Korea, a move it regarded as “provocative military disturbances.” North Korea’s rhetoric grew more threatening this week after the country’s senior envoy to the U.S. threatened America with an “appalling tragedy that it has never experienced nor imagined.”

In a letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Trump said: “I felt a wonderful dialogue was building up between you and me, and ultimately, it is only that dialogue that matters. Some day I look very much forward to meeting you.”

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White House officials said Thursday that the meeting could still be revived, though no further details were provided.

Markets React

U.S. stocks declined sharply in the wake of President Trump’s announcement, with Dow industrials falling more than 260 points. The blue-chip index was down 191 points, or 0.8%, at 11:31 a.m. ET.  Meanwhile, the large-cap S&P 500 Index fell 0.6% and the Nasdaq slipped 0.5%.

Gold, a preferred safe haven for investors, shot up to more than one-week highs Thursday morning. The August futures contract rose $15.50, or 1.2%, to $1,310.30 a troy ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Silver futures advanced 24 cents, or 1.5%, to $16.65 a troy ounce.

Oil prices continued lower in the wake of a shock inventory report on Wednesday from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). The EIA said crude stockpiles surged 5.8 million barrels in the latest week, confounding expectations of a 1.9 million-barrel drop.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures were down 66 cents, or 0.9%, at $71.18 a barrel Thursday. Brent crude, the international futures contract, declined 67 cents, or 0.8%, to $79.13 a barrel.

In economic data, U.S. jobless claims rose unexpectedly last week, though the underlying picture continued to point to a tightening labor market. The number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits rose 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 234,000 in the week ended May 19.

The National Association of Realtors also reported a bigger than expected drop in U.S. existing home sales for April. Sales of previously-owned homes declined 2.5% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.46 million.

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Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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Blockchain

How Blockchain Can Help Companies Face the New GDPR Rules

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The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) guidelines governing the European Union (EU) officially come into play on May 25. Businesses and their associated websites had about three years to comply with the new set of rules. The companies that didn’t bother adjusting their data collection methodologies could face stiff fines.

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Most companies issued a new “Terms of Use” to be on the safe side of the road. However, a blockchain system could solve the problem once and for all.

According to the GDPR, companies are expected to follow new guidelines in order to be allowed to operate for European citizens. Those regulations include the ability for the user to consent to their data being processed, the knowledge of who is processing the data and the ability to withdraw consent at any time..

Blockchain can play a vital role in this process. Websites that have users register on a distributed ledger system provide an upper hand, allowing them to be in charge of the data they provide.

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Blockchain’s Role

When applied to systems in need of identity management, blockchain can operate in a level no other protocol can. The way it stores, collects and distributes data is revolutionizing. There is a brand new set of capabilities not available on any existing data protection method.

Blockchain verifies data usage through a complicated combination of public and private signatures, data hashing and encryption. This allows a person’s data and identity to be saved only on his end, rather than on a server. When that data is requested, it has to be provided from the user’s device instead of the main server.

While running on a blockchain system, the user is able to process exchanges personally, meaning the company that wants his data will have to get his consent in order to access them. This allows the user to have absolute control over his information, as well as know the company that uses it, meeting the GDPR’s “Right to Erasure” condition.

The use of blockchain also eliminates the need for massive databases since each user stores his own data. Blockchain makes it possible for each user to connect when needed, allowing companies to keep minimum information on customers and employees. Applying those changes to their products as well allows the company to meet GDPR’s “privacy by design” condition.

Privacy by design is, in essence, a new GDPR provision. According to it, companies are obligated to have platforms that are built on data privacy, with their products or services privacy in the cognizance of the rightful user. With blockchain technology, the process is automatically private, thus meeting the privacy by design criteria.

It remains to be seen if GDPR rules come into place on May 25 and whether fines will actually be levied on websites that do not comply. According to GDPR, the fees may come up to 4% of its annual global turnover, or €20 million, whichever is greater. This amount is enough to deter both small and large companies, although implementation will be key.

Blockchain can be the pioneer system behind the web sooner than we think. GDPR paves the way for greater blockchain adoption at a level that extends far beyond core business functions and cryptocurrency transactions.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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Blockchain

The First Governmental Elections Powered By Blockchain Technology

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While blockchain technology can be used in countless different ways and applied in any possible industrial and/or governmental sector, not all of them have been explored so far.

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One of these yet unexplored regions is using the disrupting tech for elections, allowing users to vote in a decentralized fashion from anywhere at any time, while secured by blockchain technology.

United States’ West Virginia took the first step and started the first-ever government-run, blockchain-mediated vote globally.

In the primary elections that concluded on May 8th, blockchain voting was trialed on a limited amount of people, namely deployed military members and Americans eligible to vote absentee under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), as well as their spouses and dependents.

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Participation in the trial was further restricted to voters registered in two of the state‘s 55 counties: Harrison and Monongalia.

Voatz, the company behind the voting system has created an application that basically allows you to vote regardless of your geolocation, while the company makes sure the person voting is eligible to do so.

If the trials prove to be successful and trustworthy, Mac Warner, the West Virginia Secretary of State, is considering making the system available to all UOCAVA voters registered in West Virginia for the general election this November.

He is expected to make the decision during this summer so that the process is as smooth as possible during the election period, already tested and “ready-to-go”.

“Our team believes blockchain does provide a heightened level of security on this type of mobile voting app. We’re genuinely hoping that will allow this type of a mobile app to be made available in the future – as early perhaps as our general election – to military voters.” 

Mike Queen, communications director for Mac Warner stated on Ethnews.

In charge of conducting the results of the audit will be Voraz, clerks representing Harrison and Monongalia counties and the state’s governor among other parties.

“The Secretary’s office is very encouraged so far today and we believe that [blockchain-based voting] is a real viable option. There are a lot of other states who are asking about this mobile voting solution and who are also interested in it.” 

However, despite all the excitement of the Secretary of Office state, the whole exercise was questioned by third parties.

Professor Duncan Buell, a computer scientist in the University of South Carolina, doesn’t seem to trust the process, as he considers that Voraz application does not run a trustworthy fingerprint-scanning and facial-recognition technology, meaning the results could be vulnerable to hacking. Thus voting actually becomes trusting a company instead of the government.

While the traditional way people participate in the election process is working for some political systems, it might not be ideal for other.

In traditional elections, participants are required to travel to the city they are registered in order to take part in the process, and even if they do so, they are obliged to vote for a decision that in most common scenarios will not be able to be altered until the next planned elections.

Blockchain technology may empower voters, allowing them to actually make direct decisions regarding their residential location, rather than deciding the person to represent their decisions.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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