The New York Analysis of Policy and Government continues its review of internet bias.
The Journal, “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States of America” (PNAS) warns that “search engine companies… could affect—and perhaps are already affecting—the outcomes of close elections worldwide. Restricting search ranking manipulations to voters who have been identified as undecided while also donating money to favored candidates would be an especially subtle, effective, and efficient way of wielding influence…manipulation of search rankings might exert a disproportionately large influence over voters for four reasons: First…the process by which search rankings affect voter preferences might interact synergistically with the process by which voter preferences affect search rankings, thus creating a sort of digital bandwagon effect that magnifies the potential impact of even minor search ranking manipulations. Second, campaign influence is usually explicit, but search ranking manipulations are not. Such manipulations are difficult to detect, and most people are relatively powerless when trying to resist sources of influence they cannot see … Of greater concern in the present context, when people are unaware they are being manipulated, they tend to believe they have adopted their new thinking voluntarily … Third, candidates normally have equal access to voters, but this need not be the case with search engine manipulations. Because the majority of people in most democracies use a search engine provided by just one company, if that company chose to manipulate rankings to favor particular candidates or parties, opponents would have no way to counteract those manipulations…Finally, with the attention of voters shifting rapidly toward the Internet and away from traditional sources of information…the potential impact of search engine rankings on voter preferences will inevitably grow over time, as will the influence of people who have the power to control such rankings.”
Internet manipulation of the news has raised concern of both those favoring objective coverage as well as those conservatives who have been victimized by left-leaning search engines and social media sites. The Washington Times reported how two top websites moved to “suppress information about the Orlando mass shooter’s ties to the Islamic State, just days after Google was accused of burying negative stories about presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Even as companies like Facebook and Google deny any institutional political bias, conservatives like Less Government’s Seton Motley say that Silicon Valley’s liberal titans apparently can’t help themselves.”
A study by Ronald E. Robertson of Northeastern University, Samantha J. Shepherd and Shu Zhang of the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology found that “between May and November 2016, search results displayed in response to a wide range of election-related search terms were, on average, biased in Mrs. Clinton’s favor in all 10 search-result positions. This bias could not be accounted for by the bias in the search terms themselves. We also found different levels of bias in different search engines, as well as evidence of demographically-targeted bias. We don’t know what caused these patterns of bias, but no matter what the cause or causes, given the power of search rankings to shift votes and opinions without people’s awareness they are a matter for concern.”
Conservatives have justifiably criticized social media cites as well as search engines.
Michael Nunez, reporting in Gizmodo writes that “Facebook workers routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network’s influential ‘trending’ news section, according to a former journalist who worked on the project. This individual says that workers prevented stories about the right-wing CPAC gathering, Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, and other conservative topics from appearing in the highly-influential section, even though they were organically trending among the site’s users.” Citing a former Facebook “news curator,” Nunez describes how topics embarrassing to the left were censored out. “Among the deep-sixed or suppressed topics on the list: former IRS official Lois Lerner, who was accused by Republicans of inappropriately scrutinizing conservative groups; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; popular conservative news aggregator the Drudge Report; Chris Kyle, the former Navy SEAL who was murdered in 2013; and former Fox News contributor Steven Crowder. ‘I believe it had a chilling effect on conservative news,’ the former curator said.”
Twitter has similarly sought to limit conservative use of its site, notes Breitbart. According to the analysis, Twitter maintains a “blacklist” of accounts, consisting of conservative users who have their posts hidden from both search results and other users’ timelines.
You Tube has also been charged with censorship, but of a less restrictive type. According to the Daily Wire “YouTube, which is owned by…Google, has displayed its nasty bias against conservative thought, banning the influential law website Legal Insurrection from posting on the channel…. YouTube’s bias is becoming clearer and clearer; in October the channel started censoring videos produced by Prager University; 21 Prager University videos were placed by Google under ‘restricted mode,’ which limited access to them for many schools and families.”
The Report concludes tomorrow.