miércoles, 20 de enero de 2016

Could Google sway an election? If so, how?

Could Google sway an election? If so, how?

Connecting is MercatorNet's blog about social media and the virtual self. We'd love to hear from you. Send us your tips and suggestions. Post comments. We want to make it as lively as possible. The editor is Denyse O'Leary, a Canadian journalist.  - See more at: http://www.mercatornet.com/connecting/view/could-google-sway-an-election-if-so-how/17476#sthash.E19wBawT.dpuf


Could Google sway an election? If so, how?
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American psychologist Robert Epstein explains how search engine rankings can be manipulated. From Wired:

Epstein’s paper combines a few years’ worth of experiments in which Epstein and his colleague Ronald Robertson gave people access to information about the race for prime minister in Australia in 2010, two years prior, and then let the mock-voters learn about the candidates via a simulated search engine that displayed real articles.
One group saw positive articles about one candidate first; the other saw positive articles about the other candidate. (A control group saw a random assortment.) The result: Whichever side people saw the positive results for, they were more likely to vote for—by more than 48 percent. The team calls that number the “vote manipulation power,” or VMP. The effect held—strengthened, even—when the researchers swapped in a single negative story into the number-four and number-three spots. Apparently it made the results seem even more neutral and therefore more trustworthy.
The researchers verified the result in an actual election in India in 2014. The effect is called “recency,” meaning that people tend to be affected by the information they heard most recently.

Search engine algorithms are not neutral:

“It’s not really possible to have a completely neutral algorithm,” says Jonathan Bright, a research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute who studies elections. “I don’t think there’s anyone in Google or Facebook or anywhere else who’s trying to tweak an election. But it’s something these organizations have always struggled with.” Algorithms reflect the values and worldview of the programmers. That’s what an algorithm is, fundamentally. “Do they want to make a good effort to make sure they influence evenly across Democrats and Republicans? Or do they just let the algorithm take its course?” Bright asks.
Epstein offers a historical precedent at Politico:

There is precedent in the United States for this kind of backroom king-making. RutherfordB. Hayes, the 19th president of the United States [1877–1881)], was put into office in part because of strong support by Western Union. In the late 1800s, Western Union had a monopoly on communications in America, and just before the election of 1876, the company did its best to assure that only positive news stories about Hayes appeared in newspapers nationwide. It also shared all the telegrams sent by his opponent’s campaign staff with Hayes’s staff. Perhaps the most effective way to wield political influence in today’s high-tech world is to donate money to a candidate and then to use technology to make sure he or she wins. The technology guarantees the win, and the donation guarantees allegiance, which Google has certainly tapped in recent years with the Obama administration. More.
Some pundits think Epstein is overreacting. For example, media analyst David Karpf notes,

Undecided voters are overwhelmingly low-information voters. They aren’t watching political news. They’re mostly avoiding political advertising, when they can. They aren’t sitting at home Googling candidates. If they were, they wouldn’t be low-information voters.
True, but even if they are not interested in the election, the election may be interested in them.

Ultimately, if the stakes are high enough, and we do not watch out for the ways in which online life can mess with our minds, we are at risk. In addition to fake friends, fake product reviews, fake science journals, fake news, and fake political consensus (astroturf), we could have fake political opinions. Opinions we might not have if we sought to be independently better informed.

See also: Facepalm: Facebook experiments on its users, Part I and Part II.

Denyse O’Leary is a Canadian journalist, author, and blogger.
- See more at: http://www.mercatornet.com/connecting/view/could-google-sway-an-election-if-so-how/17476#sthash.E19wBawT.dpuf

Could Google sway an election? If so, how?


Austen Ivereigh has written a splendid review of the new book by Pope Francis, The Name of God Is Mercy. (See below.) In it the Pope says, "We need to enter the darkness, the night in which so many of our brothers and sisters live.”  That is a huge challenge, but undoubtedly true. In today’s society, living a normal life is a very special grace.
I was surprised to see that the New York Times may have been the first newspaper to review the book. The writer was impressed with its style and sincerity: “The ease with which the pope speaks to the concerns of ordinary people, as well as his humble lifestyle … is rooted in a heartfelt sense of humility.”
Perhaps the Pope’s message is getting through. 

Michael Cook 

Making mercy real
Austen Ivereigh | ABOVE | 20 January 2016
The Church exists not to condemn but to introduce us to “the visceral love of God’s mercy", says the Pope in his new book
Are there people who feel no remorse?
J. Budziszewski | FEATURES | 20 January 2016
Perhaps, but they still have a conscience.
True love waits
Jennifer Minicus | READING MATTERS | 20 January 2016
Not your average modern fairy tale
Could Google sway an election? If so, how?
Denyse O'Leary | CONNECTING | 20 January 2016
American psychologist Robert Epstein explains how search engine rankings can be manipulated.

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