Why do we as Australians concern ourselves with American politics? Well, they tend to export many ideas to us. The good, the bad and the ugly.
In this case, we should be asking ourselves how Google could affect our next federal election in 2022, and perhaps our upcoming state elections if they choose.
How much damage could Google, Facebook & Twitter do by swinging 2-8% of our voters, as they did with the American election?
2-8% of voters may sound small but that equates to 300,000 – 1.2 million votes which could turn that sweeping win from Scott Morrison in 2019 into a career ending, crushing defeat if well strategized.
There is a glimmer of hope though. Some of the strategies that Dr. Epstein warns of are more effective in the USA due to their non-compulsory approach to voting. Australia’s compulsory take on voting actually neutralises some methods of manipulation, such as the reminder messages to certain voters but not others.
However, Australia’s system doesn’t counter most techniques relating to the pipeline of information, especially with search engines and censorship, which are psychologically impactful.
Monday saw Donald Trump threaten to ban TikTok from the USA unless it’s sold to an American company by next month, due to long-standing privacy concerns.
I have to admit that I’ve been rather perplexed by the focus on TikTok, considering that companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter have been violating and selling people’s private data for some time now.
In fact, in the case of Google they have been overtly manipulating its search engine and algorithms to swing votes against then-candidate Donald Trump in 2016 and against Republican Candidates in the 2018 mid-term congressional elections.
Why would Google do that? Well, you might like to know that the parent company of Google, ‘Alphabet Inc.’, was the top financial donor of the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016.
Enter Dr. Robert Epstein. In July of 2019, Dr. Epstein testified before congress on the dangers of ‘Big Tech’ manipulating anywhere from 2.6 – 10.4 million votes from Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential Election.
Dr. Epstein is the senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioural Research and Technology.
Some of the search techniques he warns of from Google, Facebook & Twitter include the “search engine manipulation effect, the search suggestion effect, the answer bot effect and a number of others”.
“In 2020, if all these companies are supporting the same candidate, there are 15 million votes on the line that can be shifted without people’s knowledge, and without leaving a paper trail for authorities to trace.”
Just to put this into perspective for you, in 2016 Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 3 million votes, however she lost the electoral college by 80,000 votes in Rust Belt states secured by Donald Trump like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.