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