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Move over Rupert – Google now calls the shots

Rupert Murdoch was once asked: “of all the things in your business empire, what gives you the most pleasure?” Murdoch instantly replied: “being involved with the editor of a paper in a day-to-day campaign…trying to influence people”.

I don’t think many on the Left side of politics would argue with that.

His attacks on the Labor Government in Australia during the 2013 election campaign and the Labour Opposition in Great Britain demonstrate this.

Heavyweights in the independent media harbour the ambition that one day they too will have to power to influence election outcomes, however they are resigned to the likely scenario that it could take at least a decade for the alternative media to have the numbers to wield such power.

Now they have an unlikely ally.

Internet giant Google.

Business Insider reports that in the United States ‘Google will have a massive influence on the 2016 presidential race’ by deciding ‘which results pop up when people enter a search term’. Hm, that’s interesting. But how?

Google’s ‘search engine manipulation effect’ (SEME) allows Google to ‘take a diverse group of undecided voters, let them research the candidates on a Google-esque search engine, then tally their votes — never mentioning that the search was rigged, giving top link placement to stories supporting a selected candidate’.

‘Essentially it comes down to Google’s ability to decide which results pop up when people enter a search term’. Researchers, they write, expected this bias would sway voters, but ‘they were shocked by just how much: Some voters became 20 percent more likely to support the favored candidate’.

So to put it simply, Google can have ‘extraordinary power over how voters cast their ballots’.

Looking at the United States again (where the research is being carried out), by making a minor tweek to its algorithms only negative or positive stories about Donald Trump will dominate the returns from a Google search.

Matt Southern from the Search Engine Journal writes that:

If Google’s search algorithm started to surface more positive results than negative for a candidate, searchers could end up having a more positive opinion of that candidate.

This kind of influence could sway election results given that most presidential elections are won by small margins.

Is this dangerous? Possibly, but no more dangerous than the control and influence that Murdoch holds.

But would Google ever do it?

Maybe. Imagine this: Al Gore had considered entering the 2016 presidential race. Did you know he was once an adviser at Google?

One of Al Gore’s first moves upon leaving office was to take a job at Google as an adviser. Al Gore took this job a full three years before the company went public in 2004, and it is rumored that Gore received stock options that were valued at as much as $40 million.

If Gore had decided to run, I’m sure someone at Google could have tweeked the algorithm to his advantage.

And we would have never known.

By the way, did I mention that Rupert Murdoch hates Google?

 

10 comments

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  1. Kaye Lee

    Every time I google Tony Abbott it comes up with something negative, false, or batshit crazy. But then again….what else could it show?

  2. Terry2

    I noted that Murdoch dined separately with Abbott and Morrison while he was in town recently : it’s probably more significant that he met with Morrison, a relatively minor minister in the Abbott government. In Rupert’s world it is symbolic of his anointment of the next Liberal Leader that he will support.

  3. Kaye Lee

    Morrison scares the crap out of me. He is far more devious than Abbott. He has gagged his department from answering inquiries.

    The Department of Social Services’ 50-person communications team, costing taxpayers several million dollars a year, responded directly to just two of the 390 requests it received from media in the first six months of the year.

    “As minister I am responsible for the social services portfolio and department and therefore I provide public comment on portfolio issues,” Mr Morrison said.

    He said the DSS communications team also had a range of jobs outside of dealing directly with journalists.

    This included, but was not limited to; market research, communication and media strategy development and implementation, advertising campaign development and implementation, events management, information product development, printing, distribution and storage, communications related procurement and panel management and content development for the department’s internet and intranet sites.

    http://www.canberratimes.com.au/national/public-service/scott-morrison-exercises-tight-media-control-in-department-of-social-services-20150827-gj9001.html#ixzz3k5fLUoYB

  4. Linda

    He scares the hell out of me too Kaye, I did a Google search on him, he’s a nasty piece of work. When ever I see him or hear him speak he reminds me of the warden in Shawshank Redemption. God help us all if he ends up being the anointed one. After yesterday’s debacle with the border farce we can only hope that the Social Media can rise up again. That was truly amazing.

  5. Kaye Lee

    Among the non-Catholics is the arch right-winger Eric Abetz, aligned with the Christian Reformed Churches of Australia, who use the mission statement “Pray, multiply, train and align”, and Scott Morrison, aligned with the Pentecostal Assemblies of God, one of the few growing faith movements in the country, with its intoxicating blend of showbiz, God and Mammon. The big cheese of the movement in Australia, Brian Houston, wrote the book You Need More Money.

    https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/news/politics/2015/08/29/prime-minister-tony-abbott-and-the-christian-right/14407704002308

  6. jim

    So Rupy hates google , Imagine how much he’d hate the AIM, A free unbiased news /opinion site heck he’d ask rabbits para-military officers to arrest you all ASAP and rabbit would be the knight leading the charge IMO.

  7. gangey1959

    Who on earth would ever want to be ‘annointed’ by rupey murdoch ? The thought makes my eyes water.
    Mr morrison is one of the slimiest pricks ever to disgrace the walks of Parliament. He would, if it is possible, be even worse a pm than our current dolt.
    And what is it with’religion’ and politicians ?
    We expect it from our septic ‘allies’. “In God we trust, everyone else pays.” is written on their money, and all.
    But here in Australia? Come on people, get a grip.
    I do believe there is some form of supreme power out there. A bit like Snoopy and his ‘Great Pumpkin’.
    But these whackos who cannot blink without deferring to the altar and opinion of whatever their chosen mental poisoner might have in store today is no way to run a Country with VERY diverse religious views. Just like watery tarts distributing swords is no basis for a system of Government, holding up the reading of the floating portions of the pm’s morning crap as truth is no basis for decision making either.
    “You need more money?” Tell us something we haven’t realised. What we would like is a fairer way of sharing it around, so that 99% of us are not feeling quite so disillusioned.
    For anyone interested, I have my own vision of the afterlife. What I see is us all ending up outside the gates (pearly or not), with a list of our good v bad deeds as a balance sheet, and all of our remaining worldly posessions converted into one cent coins.
    What we can carry with us through the gates we can keep. The rest we leave behind.
    How many rupeys and ginas and hockeys and abbots will there be inside? Or will they all be trying to take more from one another ?
    You decide.
    One final thought for today.
    Ms reinfart is the richest fat cow on the planet thanks to her father. If Lang had been a woman, would he have been granted all of his mining leases way back when ? Methinks NOT.

  8. proudlyprogressive

    “But would Google ever do it?”

    Obviously you missed Julian Assange’s recent compelling warning that Google is already manipulating its algorithms to influence consumer decisions in favor of preferred corporate interests, and that it represents the greatest threat to democracy we’ve even seen.

    Everyone knows the power of ranking on page one of Google search returns, including Google. Anyone who thinks Google sits on the benign side of multinational corporations and that it will act as a ‘force for good’ in the political space is naive.

  9. Roswell

    Yes, I missed that.

    But I’m not naive.

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