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Old 19th August 2015, 10:36   #1 (permalink)
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Cool Google could steal elections?

We are in an age where we are all too busy or have at our fingertips, information that was unimaginable in the last decade of the 20th century. We no longer spend a leisurely Sunday reading The Times (NY or London). We glance at a headline, make a decision about what we think it means and jump to quick conclusions based upon little or nothing more.

Now there appears to be evidence that simply searching for information can affect the outcome of an election. The United States covers four time zones and when you consider that the polls close in New York four hours before they do in California, an election can be affected by simply watching the news or doing a last minute search for a candidate on the ballot.

The article is about the US but it could happen in any country.
(Oh, no,...)
Google’s Search Algorithm Could Steal the Presidency - 08.06.15
"IMAGINE AN ELECTION—A close one. You’re undecided. So you type the name of one of the candidates into your search engine of choice. "

"Google coughs up, in fractions of a second, articles and facts about that candidate. Great! Now you are an informed voter, right? But a study published this week says that the order of those results, the ranking of positive or negative stories on the screen, can have an enormous influence on the way you vote. And if the election is close enough, the effect could be profound enough to change the outcome."

"Robert Epstein, a psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology states, "that Google could determine the outcome of upwards of 25 percent of all national elections."

"Their experiments show that when a search reveals positive articles about a candidate or party, they were more likely to vote for that party or candidate by a margin of more than 48 percent. "The team calls that number the vote manipulation power, or VMP."

The “Fox News Effect” (see link below) says that towns that got the conservative-leaning cable channel tended to become more conservative in their voting in the 2000 election. A well-known effect called recency means that people make decisions based on the last thing they heard."

The Fox News Effect: Media Bias and Voting
(Our estimates imply that Fox News convinced 3 to 8 percent of its viewers to vote Republican. The Fox News effect could be a temporary learning effect for rational voters, or a permanent effect for voters subject to non-rational persuasion.)

"Half the presidential elections in US history came down to a margin of less than 8 percent. And presidential elections are really 50 separate state-by-state knife fights, with the focus of campaigns not on poll-tested winners or losers but purple “swing states” with razor-thin margins."

"So even at an order of magnitude smaller than the experimental effect, VMP could have serious consequences. At the end of the day, the fact is that in a lot of races it only takes a swing of 3 or 4 percent. If the search engine is one or two percent, that’s still really persuasive."

“Trying to get the media to present something that is favorable to you is a more favorable strategy.” for campaign managers, thereby getting higher rankings on Google's search matrix."

"Search and social media companies can certainly have a new kind of influence, though. During the 2010 US congressional elections, researchers at Facebook exposed 61 million users to a message exhorting them to vote—it didn’t matter for whom—and found they were able to generate 340,000 extra votes across the board."

"But what if—as Harvard Law professor Jonathan Zittrain has proposed—Facebook didn’t push the “vote” message to a random 61 million users? Instead, using the extensive information the social network maintains on all its subscribers, it could hypothetically push specific messaging to supporters or foes of specific legislation or candidates. Facebook could flip an election."
"Education: that which reveals to the wise, and conceals from the stupid, the vast limits of their knowledge."
- Mark Twain
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