Dr. Robert Epstein, a liberal professor and self-avowed “strong public supporter of Hillary Clinton,” testified recently before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and gave a startling assessment of voter manipulation in the 2016 election.
Manipulation not by Russia, but by Google and, to a lessor extent, Facebook.
“You testified before this committee that Google’s manipulation of votes gave at least 2.6 million additional votes to Hillary Clinton in the year 2016, is that correct?” asked Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) at the hearing.
“That’s correct,” replied Epstein, the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today.
This being accomplished “on a massive scale” through biased search results, according to the professor who earned his Ph.D. in psychology at Harvard University.
“I believe in democracy. I believe in the free and fair election more than I have any kind of allegiance to a candidate or a party,” Epstein explained to Cruz.
And if you think 2.6 million votes are a lot, he said it may reach as high as 15 million in the 2020 election.
“In 2020, if all these companies are supporting the same candidate there are 15 million votes on the line that can be shifted without people’s knowledge and without leaving a paper trail for authorities to trace,” Epstein testified.
Noting the heads of Google and Facebook were overly confident in the outcome of the 2016 election — certainly not in support of Donald Trump — Epstein said efforts to effect that election saw a drop off.
“In 2018, I’m sure they were more aggressive,” he said. “We have lots of data to support that and in 2020 you can bet that all of these companies are going to go all out.”
“And the methods that they’re using are invisible. They’re subliminal,” Epstein added. “They’re more powerful than most any effects I’ve ever seen in the behavioral sciences and I’ve been in the behavioral sciences for almost 40 years.”
Done on the cheap.
Cruz asked, “What you are testifying to is that a handful of Silicon Valley billionaires and giant corporations are able to spend millions of dollars, if not billions of dollars collectively, massively influencing the results of elections and there’s no accountability?”
“Senator, with respect, I must correct you,” Epstein said. “If Mark Zuckerberg chooses to send out a ‘Go Vote’ reminder just to Democrats on Election Day, that doesn’t cost him a dime.”
Cruz noted that the number one financial supporter of the Hillary Clinton campaign in the 2016 election was Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google.
The senator summarized Epstein’s testimony by saying, “through their deceptive search methods they moved 2.6 million votes in her direction.”
“I would think anybody, whether or not you favor one candidate or another, should be deeply dismayed about a handful of Silicon Valley billionaires having that much power over our elections, to silently and deceptively shift vote outcomes,” Cruz added.
Epstein intervened to correct Cruz, shockingly pointing out that the 2.6 million figure was a “rock bottom minimum.” He said that the number of manipulated votes could be as high as 10.4 million.
The methods he speaks of include search engine manipulation, search suggestion results and answer bots.
“They control these and no one can counteract them,” Epstein testified. “These are not competitive, these are tools that they have at their disposal exclusively.
In his opening remarks, Epstein explained more about how he tabulated his findings.
“I believe the threats posed by Google, and to a lesser extent Facebook, are so serious that everyone needs to know about them,” he said.
“In 2016, Google’s search algorithm likely impacted undecided voters in a way that shifted at least 2.6 million votes to Hillary Clinton, whom I supported,” Epstein told the sub-committee. “I know this because I preserved more than 13,000 election-related searches prior to election day and Google’s search results were biased in favor of Secretary Clinton. I know the number of votes that shifted because I’ve conducted dozens of controlled experiments that measure how opinions shift when search results are biased.”