When Donald Trump surprised the world by winning the 2016 election, liberals clung to the idea that his victory was illegitimate because Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. According to a psychologist who supported Clinton in 2016, however, Google’s bias in Clinton’s favor may remove even that symbolic victory from her.
Almost all of Clinton’s popular vote margin could be attributed to Google bias, making her win “negligible.” Dr. Robert Epstein, a psychologist who earned his Ph.D. at Harvard, actually reported this finding last year, but he explains how it works in the upcoming film “The Creepy Line.”
Epstein made a stir in 2015 by reporting in Politico that Google could “rig” the 2016 election. This story discussed the results of his study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). That study found that “biased search ranking can easily shift the voting preferences of undecided voters from 20% or more — up to 80% in some demographic groups.”
In a white paper published by the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology in June 2017, Epstein followed up on this PNAS study, suggesting that Clinton’s popular vote margin was almost entirely attributable to pro-Clinton bias at Google.
“Extrapolating from the mathematics introduced in this report … the lead author of the PNAS study [Epstein himself] predicted that a pro-Clinton bias in Google’s search results would, over time, shift at least 2.6 million votes to Clinton. She won the popular vote in the November election by 2,864,974 votes,” Epstein wrote with his co-author Ronald E. Robertson.
“Without the pro-Clinton bias in Google’s search results, her win margin in the popular vote would have been negligible,” Epstein wrote.
On Friday, the psychologist confirmed to PJ Media that this stunning result has not been previously reported. PJ Media learned of the study in a screening for “The Creepy Line” on Wednesday night.
“It’s actually at the end of the paper I released months ago, quite a while ago,” Epstein told PJ Media on Friday.
“From my perspective, it’s pretty straightforward. It’s just math,” the psychologist said. He noted that “the math in the 2015 PNAS paper is pretty solid. There’s even a table in there that allows you to figure out whether or not you can use search rankings to flip an election based on the projected win margin.”
During the interview, Epstein lamented Trump’s win and his presidency, but he insisted that Google’s power is a much more important and terrifying issue.
“This is not a problem for conservatives. This is a problem for humanity,” the psychologist told PJ Media. “Who gave a handful of executives in Silicon Valley the right to decide what billions of people around the world can see and cannot see? Who gave them that power?”
In “The Creepy Line,” New York Times bestselling author Peter Schweizer argued that “we did. We all did,” by signing the user agreements. Epstein disagreed with that idea.
“I don’t believe that meeting ever took place. I don’t think there was ever a vote on that issue for that matter,” he told PJ Media.
Epstein has long studied the impact of search engines like Google, and their ability to sway opinion. He has proven that search engine manipulation effect (SEME) can impact how people see the world — and how they see political figures specifically.
SEME works in a few ways. When you type a word into a Google search, Google will present various suggestions for a search. Epstein’s research has found that if all the suggestions are positive, people are more likely to see positive websites for that person or issue. But if there is one negative suggestion included under that search bar, the negative result is likely to get ten to fifteen times more clicks.
Similarly, Google presents ten search results per page, and the very first search result is considered the most reliable. For questions like, “What is the capital of France?” the correct answer, “Paris,” comes to the top. But on issues of opinion — and especially when researching political candidates — the search results and their ranking can have tremendous thorny implications.
As Epstein says in “The Creepy Line,” “Google and Facebook have the power to undermine democracy with no one knowing it has been undermined. If they exercise these powers, democracy is an illusion.”
“We found systematic bias in favor of one candidate, Hillary Clinton,” he says in the film. They found the bias “in all ten search positions on the first page. If you took away this bias, it is possible the popular vote would have been even.”
According to Epstein’s research, Google’s search results favored Hillary Clinton, and SEME can sway 20 percent of voters — and 80 percent, in certain demographic groups. He himself — again, a Clinton supporter in 2016 — suggested that the bias swayed 2.6 million votes, on the low end.
With liberals still convinced Clinton should have won the election, these results are extremely important to report. Some corners of the Internet are already claiming that if Clinton and Trump had a do-over today, the Democrat would prevail. Some of the vitriol might subside if liberals understood the implications of Epstein’s work, and realized that Trump’s appeal may have been even stronger — given that Google may have put its tremendous thumb on the scale.
Earlier this month, Tucker Carlson unveiled an email from a Google executive bragging about helping to increase the Latino vote, assuming that Latinos would heavily favor Clinton. Shortly after that, the Daily Caller released a video of Google executives lamenting Trump’s victory. On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal‘s John D. McKinnon and Douglas MacMillan reported that Google employees schemed about how to tweak the search function to harm Trump’s travel ban.
Liberals may like the idea that Google helped Hillary Clinton, but even they should be afraid of the kind of suggestive power that Google has, Epstein said.
“We all need to rise above our political biases and understand there’s a much larger problem here.”
Indeed, Schweizer told PJ Media Thursday that Benito Mussolini, Vladimir Lenin, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Zedong “would dream about” the kind of “control or influence” that Facebook and Google have over billions of people.
“The Creepy Line” reveals just how much power Google and Facebook have. Epstein is working to set up a monitoring system to alert people to exactly what these companies are doing in real time. You can request a screening of the film at this link. Watch the trailer below.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.