Random Musings of a Skeptical Nerd

Can Google manipulate an election?

In current news, Google is being accused of manipulating public opinion by altering search results based on the political agenda of the company. Of course, Google denies that they manipulate search results. They also claim that it is impossible to manipulate public opinion via their platform.

Ok. Let’s test this.

Love him or hate him, Alex Jones is responsible for the creation of the alternative media movement, primarily through his website infowars.com and radio show Infowars. It is estimated that his content is responsible for influencing 3-5% of the voting public in the United States. This number alone is enough to decide a presidential election.

I am writing this article on 11 August 2019. I am going to enter the search term “Alex Jones” into several search engines to compare results.

Search 1 – Bing.com

The first result is the link to infowars.com and a neutral bio of Jones.

Search 2 – Aol.com

Aol has similar results as bing.com. This is not surprising since AOL uses Bing’s search engine.

Search 3 – Yahoo.com

Yahoo.com is a mirror copy of AOL. Thus we can assume that they use Bing’s engine.

Search 4 – Webcrawler.com

Again a neutral search response with infowars.com first (after the paid promoted links.) Then Jones’s bio and IMDb results.

Search 5 – wow.com

This page has similar results to webcrawler. It is obvious that all of these sites share info and use a common source.

Search 6 – DuckDuckGo.com

DuckDuckGo is a little different than all of the other sites. It is a privately funded pet project where the owner does not care about making any money from the site. Thus their goal is to be as unbiased as possible and they claim to take users privacy very seriously.

The interesting thing is that their main backend is Google’s search engine.

Note that like the other sites so far, the results resemble bing.com’s neutral search results.

Search 7 – Google.com

Note that Google has something completely different than the other search sites. Not only is infowars.com not listed, but the biography is also very biased, and even the listed pictures are quite different.

All of the links go to sites that have negative information about him and I went as far as 10 pages in and did not find anything positive or a link to Infowars.

Now let us look at this from another viewpoint, the number of sites found in the results.

According to Google, there 509 million+ search results, and not a single positive to neutral link to him is popular enough to make the first page (or first 10)?

However, Bing and the other sites returned a much lower number of sites, around 1.2 million with infowars.com, Wikipedia, and IMDb links as the most popular results.

Final Thoughts

It is obvious that Google is manipulating the results for this search. How many other search terms does this happen to? Add to this that the major social media sites have openly admitted to banning any discussion about people like Alex Jones. Thus it is quite difficult for people to talk about this phenomenon.

However, things are actually even worse than this, google.com is the default search engine on the Chrome and Safari browsers. This also applies to Google’s Android phones and Apple’s iDevices.

This means for almost all internet users in the US, all search results that they receive is Google based. Most users do not know or care to either run another browser, operating system, or even to change the default search engine on their device. Thus they rely on google’s results, and most people do not know any different.

This brings us back to the question, Can Google manipulate an election?

–The Technical Skeptic

The Technical Skeptic 2.0

About three months ago, I decided it was time to buckle down and learn kubernetes. For me the best way to learn things is to build something in my lab, break it, repeat. Once that is stable, I then bring my home application stack over to it. The hard part is that I am a infosec guy with a systems background. I have a CS degree and worked as a developer for a little bit and decided that I liked systems admin much more. The problem with kubernetes is that all of the documentation and tips is from a developer’s mindset, thus it is a big jump to grok it. To show my age, think of the jump from a procedural language like the original home computer basic to pascal or c. While at the same time, going OO.

It took a few months, but I got there. I will outline that in later posts.

I have ran a blog off and on from time to time. This time around I decided to try again is because I can now host it myself in kubernetes, complete with TLS. So here I am.

Rules of Operation That My Elmer Taught Me

Originally Published on 13 January 2016 on my old blog.

As I get older in this hobby, I am finding lessons that were taught to me as a teenager by my elmer ( SK W0NAZ) are repeated as I am now assuming the role as an elmer.

When I was first entering the hobby, there were digital modes but the due to the cost of a tnc and a computer with a serial port, CW was my only option.

Today we are seeing a revival of the hobby since the barrier of entry to the hobby has been decreased with affordable and easy to use technology.

A common question I see asked is what mode do we use, how do we use it, and when do we use it?

This is where I always end up repeating the rules of operation that my elmer taught me.

The rules are simple since there are not that many.

1. Follow the FCC rules and laws. 
2. Learn how to use your radio!
3. Listen before you transmit.
4. Use the modes common to that frequency (aka a band plan) 
5. Ask if the frequency is in use. 
6. Use only the amount of power that you need.
7. Monitor your signal, if you can’t, ask someone about your signal while saving up to buy the equipment needed to monitor your signal.
8. Ask someone about your signal.
9. Give time in-between transmissions to let other people talk. 
10. Yield control of the frequency to those who need it more than you do.
11. If someone needs the frequency more than you do, ask them how you can help.

This is how my elmer taught me to operate and it has served me well over the years no matter how much the technology has changed.

73  de KB0FHF aka TechnicalSkeptic