Silicon Valley poses a greater threat to American democracy than China and Russia combined.
We have an out-of-control “defense” budget to use in countering foreign threats. But at the present time we have no defense against Silicon Valley billionaires who use vehicles like Google, Facebook, and Twitter to manipulate our political life and our elections. These moguls can and do make a mockery of your First Amendment rights and your vote, yet they are unaccountable to the public.
Most of the publicity about the Silicon Valley threat has to do with censorship. It’s hard to keep that completely secret—at least to those being censored—and I will cover those threats in future articles. Even more nefarious, though, are the unseen “stealth” or “subliminal” techniques used to throw elections. These are controlled by algorithms, and only the Silicon Valley insiders are privy to their secrets.
We have expert testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee from June 16, 2019, explaining exactly how Google does this. But a year has passed and there has been no action from Congress. This raises the distinct possibility—I would say probability—that Google will try to throw the presidential election in November to the Democrats. It is no secret who they and the rest of Silicon Valley support. It’s not conservatives, or Republicans, and definitely not Donald Trump.
Introducing Robert Epstein, Ph.D.
Dr. Epstein is the Senior Research Psychologist for the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology. He earned his doctorate at Harvard University under B. F. Skinner and is the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today and Director Emeritus of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies. He has written 15 books and more than 300 articles on psychology-related topics, including empirical studies in Science, Nature, and The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He has also written articles for less rarified publications, including Time, USA Today, and the Huffington Post.
If that doesn’t seem like the resume of a Trumper, that’s because it isn’t. Dr. Epstein voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and describes himself as “not a conservative. I have been center/center-left my whole adult life.”
But Dr. Epstein also loves America and democracy, and explains:
I reach out to diverse different audiences because the threats posed by Google, and, to a lesser extent, Facebook, are so serious that I think everyone in the world needs to know about them. I put my own political leanings aside when I report my data and concerns because the problems these companies present eclipse personal politics. To put this another way, I love humanity, my country, and democracy more than I love any particular party or candidate. And democracy as originally conceived cannot survive Big Tech as currently empowered.
You can read his evidence in detail on the Institute’s website and in his Senate testimony, which relates specifically to Google’s use of “subliminal” techniques to convince undecided citizens to vote Democratic by skewing its search results. He calls this “the Search Engine Manipulation Effect.”
How Effective Is This Google Technique?
In his research, “which adheres, I believe, to the highest possible scientific standards in all respects,” Dr. Epstein comes to these conclusions:
- “In 2016, biased search results generated by Google’s search algorithm likely impacted undecided voters in a way that gave at least 2.6 million votes to Hillary Clinton (whom I supported).” (That 2.6 million figure is the rock-bottom estimate; it may have been as high as 10.4 million votes.)
- “On Election Day in 2018, the ‘Go Vote’ reminder Google displayed on its home page gave one political party between 800,000 and 4.6 million more votes than it gave the other party.” (And you know which party was the beneficiary.)
- “In the weeks leading up to the 2018 election, bias in Google’s search results may have shifted upwards of 78.2 million votes to the candidates of one political party (spread across hundreds of local and regional races).”
- “My recent research demonstrates that Google’s “autocomplete” search suggestions can turn a 50/50 split among undecided voters into a 90/10 split without people’s awareness.” And…
- “Google has likely been determining the outcomes of upwards of 25 percent of the national elections worldwide since at least 2015. This is because many races are very close and because Google’s persuasive technologies are very powerful.”
“These effects,” he adds, “are nothing like Russian-placed ads or fake news stories. Russian interference, although troubling and unacceptable, does not, in my opinion, shift many votes. Ads and news stories are competitive and visible, like billboards. The kinds of ephemeral effects I am studying, however, are invisible and non-competitive. They are controlled entirely by Big Tech companies, and there is no way to counteract them.”
We don’t need a crystal ball to figure out what Google’s plans are for the upcoming presidential election and congressional races.
The question is: What are your Senators and Representative doing about this? Dr. Epstein warns that “only tech can fight tech; laws and regulations will never keep up,” but “Congress can quickly end Google’s worldwide monopoly on search”:
“The solution to The Google Problem is to declare Google’s massive search index – the database the company uses to generate search results – to be a public commons, accessible by all, just as a 1956 consent decree forced AT&T to share all its patents. There is precedent in both law and in Google’s own business practices to justify taking this step.
“Declaring Google’s index a commons will quickly give rise to thousands of search platforms like Google.com, each competing with Google, each providing excellent search results, each serving niche audiences, large and small, exactly like newspapers and television networks and websites do now. Search will become competitive, as it was during its early years, and democracy will be protected from Google’s secretive machinations.”
As Lenin Asked, “What Is to Be Done?”
Google predictably discount’s Dr. Epstein’s charges as a “conspiracy theory.” Some other tech experts may consider his estimates to be on the high side, but do not dispute Silicon Valley’s ability to impact our elections. And it’s only safe to assume that if they can, they will.
The Democrats in the House aren’t about to bite the hand that feeds them, both in campaign donations and with this sort of manipulation. The “mainstream media” show their solidarity with the disadvantaged by being cheerleaders, or at least silent accomplices, of the billionaires. The Republicans, as usual, are mostly asleep at the wheel. Meanwhile, the Silicon Valley moguls consolidate more power over us than ever obtained by the Robber Barons of old.
That’s a pretty dismal situation. But when Lenin wrote “What Is to Be Done?” in 1901 the revolutionaries had no political power, yet in less than two decades the world witnessed the horrors of the Russian Revolution.
We do not have the luxury of waiting that long. We must overcome the vote manipulations of Silicon Valley by using the reopening of the economy as a political wedge for victory in November. And Republicans must think big, with the goal of switching two dozen seats in the House of Representatives. Only with a unified Congress can the American people hope to control the Silicon Valley monopolists and preserve democracy.