March 15, 2016

Google; the Gatekeeper of the Mind

Timothy Birdnow

For years I have warned of the power of Google and the other major search engines, that these handy gadgets were crushing the Conservative movement by selectively choosing what would appear at the top of any internet search. Wikipedia, for instance, always appears near the top, even though it is a "user generated" encyclopedia, and to a large degree fairly worthless. Oftentimes I have searched for what had been a big story a year or so ago, one that was damaging to liberals, and it is just GONE, or if not gone completely it has been relegated to page 12 or some other digital Siberia.

Case in point; I wrote a post for Pajamas Media a number of years back and wanted to include a story about a kid who committed suicide over global warming. I couldn't find it anywhere on the net. The editor at PJ looked too, and HE couldn't find it, even though both of us remembered the story. This is not an uncommon occurrence.

This is an insidious form of censorship, a way to subtly affect the way people think. Millenials, who have never cracked an actual book for information, assume they are getting the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth when they do an internet search, and that is the power of Google and other search engines. If it's not on Google it must not exist.

And activism has been central to the Google mission. It was a Google executive who started the revolution in Egypt via Facebook. Google is the top corporation in America for political donations, beating out Goldman Sachs for the top spot.

According to the Financial Times:

"Google’s political action committee, NetPAC, has spent more money on political campaigns this year than Goldman, at $1.43m, just edging out the $1.4m by the bank that is famous for its political connections. That is a marked change from the last midterm election in 2010, when Google spent only a third as much as Goldman.

Technology companies are spending big money this year to build political support as Washington debates issues critical to the sector from tax, to increasing the number of visas for skilled migrants to greater oversight of US intelligence agencies."

Why are tech companies so eager to donate money this election cycle? While the article says they are largely evenly split on donations between the two parties, it fails to say who in the Republicans are benefiting. Hint; it isn't Ted Cruz.

The article continues:

"Companies and executives also gave heavily to Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who had, until recently, been pushing for reform to immigration. Tech companies hope such reform could lead to more visas for foreign engineers. Facebook’s PAC, as well as its founder Mark Zuckerberg, donated heavily to Mr. Rubio, as did Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, and Tesla founder Elon Musk.

Tech company employees tend to donate to Democrats, according to the Sunlight Foundation, a non-partisan non-profit group that supports government transparency.

Nearly all the top recipients of donations from Google employees were Democrats, with the exception of Mr. Goodlatte and Representative Darrell Issa, a Republican from southern California who sits on the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee for intellectual property and the internet. The breakdown for other companies is similar."

End excerpt.

Any surprise Rubio has stayed in the race, sucking up votes that rightly should have gone to Ted Cruz?

And, despite a clear political agenda, we are supposed to believe that the Google search parameters are incorruptible, that the information that makes the top of the search is somehow the best information out there.

Here is an essay I found via the leftist Drudge Retort about Google's growing power over information flow and the way people think. I find it interesting that the editors of Drudge.com would link to this, as it defeats the very belief system they advocate. Google is THEIR friend, not ours.

At any rate, this essay is fairly lengthy, but it makes some excellent points. For instance:

"To understand how the new forms of mind control work, we need to start by looking at the search engine – one in particular: the biggest and best of them all, namely Google. The Google search engine is so good and so popular that the company’s name is now a commonly used verb in languages around the world. To ‘Google’ something is to look it up on the Google search engine, and that, in fact, is how most computer users worldwide get most of their information about just about everything these days. They Google it. Google has become the main gateway to virtually all knowledge, mainly because the search engine is so good at giving us exactly the information we are looking for, almost instantly and almost always in the first position of the list it shows us after we launch our search – the list of ‘search results’.

That ordered list is so good, in fact, that about 50 per cent of our clicks go to the top two items, and more than 90 per cent of our clicks go to the 10 items listed on the first page of results; few people look at other results pages, even though they often number in the thousands, which means they probably contain lots of good information. Google decides which of the billions of web pages it is going to include in our search results, and it also decides how to rank them. How it decides these things is a deep, dark secret – one of the best-kept secrets in the world, like the formula for Coca-Cola.

Because people are far more likely to read and click on higher-ranked items, companies now spend billions of dollars every year trying to trick Google’s search algorithm – the computer program that does the selecting and ranking – into boosting them another notch or two. Moving up a notch can mean the difference between success and failure for a business, and moving into the top slots can be the key to fat profits."

[...]

"Does the company ever favour particular candidates? In the 2012 US presidential election, Google and its top executives donated more than $800,000 to President Barack Obama and just $37,000 to his opponent, Mitt Romney. And in 2015, a team of researchers from the University of Maryland and elsewhere showed that Google’s search results routinely favoured Democratic candidates. Are Google’s search rankings really biased? An internal report issued by the US Federal Trade Commission in 2012 concluded that Google’s search rankings routinely put Google’s financial interests ahead of those of their competitors, and anti-trust actions currently under way against Google in both the European Union and India are based on similar findings.

In most countries, 90 per cent of online search is conducted on Google, which gives the company even more power to flip elections than it has in the US and, with internet penetration increasing rapidly worldwide, this power is growing. In our PNAS article, Robertson and I calculated that Google now has the power to flip upwards of 25 per cent of the national elections in the world with no one knowing this is occurring. In fact, we estimate that, with or without deliberate planning on the part of company executives, Google’s search rankings have been impacting elections for years, with growing impact each year. And because search rankings are ephemeral, they leave no paper trail, which gives the company complete deniability.

Power on this scale and with this level of invisibility is unprecedented in human history. But it turns out that our discovery about SEME was just the tip of a very large iceberg."

End excerpts.

The article discusses original research done by the author and others showing that most people take the first ten entries as Gospel and rarely dig deeper.

He also makes this point:

"s so powerful and how, to some extent, it can be suppressed.

We have also learned something very disturbing – that search engines are influencing far more than what people buy and whom they vote for. We now have evidence suggesting that on virtually all issues where people are initially undecided, search rankings are impacting almost every decision that people make. They are having an impact on the opinions, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors of internet users worldwide – entirely without people’s knowledge that this is occurring. This is happening with or without deliberate intervention by company officials; even so-called ‘organic’ search processes regularly generate search results that favour one point of view, and that in turn has the potential to tip the opinions of millions of people who are undecided on an issue. In one of our recent experiments, biased search results shifted people’s opinions about the value of fracking by 33.9 per cent.

Perhaps even more disturbing is that the handful of people who do show awareness that they are viewing biased search rankings shift even further in the predicted direction; simply knowing that a list is biased doesn’t necessarily protect you from SEME’s power.

Remember what the search algorithm is doing: in response to your query, it is selecting a handful of webpages from among the billions that are available, and it is ordering those webpages using secret criteria. Seconds later, the decision you make or the opinion you form – about the best toothpaste to use, whether fracking is safe, where you should go on your next vacation, who would make the best president, or whether global warming is real – is determined by that short list you are shown, even though you have no idea how the list was generated."

End excerpt.

I have argued that the Conservative movement will not get anywhere as long as liberals control the search engines, because they can simply "disappear" information critical to making informed opinions. The ability to determine what people know is the ultimate power, one that we cannot compete against - particularly since the television networks, the entertainment industry, and the educational system are biased against us. The internet gave us a chance to educate people by going around the gatekeepers. Now we have a new, more powerful gatekeeper, and it is as leftist as the old order.

Beware the beast Google.

Posted by: Timothy Birdnow at 08:36 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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