Technology

Google Is Evil

The tech giant's monopoly is increasingly a major threat to free political speech.

Douglas Andrews · Jun. 23, 2020

Last Tuesday marked an anniversary of sorts, but it passed without a whisper. One year ago, Robert Epstein warned Congress about the very real threat Google poses to our republican form of government and how to deal with that threat.

To which our elected representatives have responded by doing pretty much nothing.

Epstein, a Harvard-educated behavioral psychologist and the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today, gave sworn Senate testimony that began, “I love America and democracy, and I am also not a conservative.” Having established his left-leaning bona fides, he then offered evidence of what every fair-minded person who’s ever done a politics-related Google search has long suspected: “Data I’ve collected since 2016 show that Google displays content to the American public that is biased in favor of one political party — a party I happen to like, but that’s irrelevant.”

“Democracy as originally conceived,” he said, “cannot survive Big Tech as currently empowered.”

Epstein went on to explain what he calls the Search Engine Manipulation Effect, or SEME, which measures how opinions (and votes) can be altered by search algorithms that favor one candidate or party over another.

A month later, Epstein published a Bloomberg op-ed detailing the three biggest threats posed by Big Tech: aggressive surveillance, suppression of content, and “the subtle manipulation of the thinking and behavior of more than 2.5 billion people.” Epstein also proposed a solution involving transparency and competition — two concepts that Big Tech avoids like Brussels sprouts.

More recently, lawmakers and U.S. Attorney General William Barr have been exploring a different solution — that of reevaluating Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which currently grants Big Tech protections against lawsuits aimed at the content on their platforms. Those “platforms” have in recent years been behaving like progressive publishers, however, and they should no longer be able to hide behind Section 230. This is certainly true of Google, which, together with its YouTube subsidiary, controls a monopolistic share (more than 90%) of online searches.

“Unfortunately,” Barr told Fox News’s Maria Bartiromo on Sunday, these tech platforms “started taking down viewpoints and started really being selective and, based on whether they agreed with the viewpoint or not, taking [those viewpoints] down. And that should make them a publisher.”

We know what you’re thinking: Google can’t fool me. But Google doesn’t have to fool you; it can simply fool the other guy. The 2016 presidential election, for example, was decided by fewer than 78,000 votes out of 136 million cast. Donald Trump won Michigan by 0.2 points, and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin both by 0.7 points. Thus, if Big Tech could’ve swayed the votes of just two late-deciders out of each thousand votes cast in Michigan, and just seven out of each thousand cast in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Hillary Clinton would be your president.

Daniel Hannan, a journalist and former member of the British Parliament, wrote about the “unholy alliance of big government and Big Tech,” which evolved out of tech companies’ desire to protect themselves from those who would tax and regulate them, while at the same time setting up a system that kept out new competitors. “Whose fault is all this?” Hannan asks. “I’m afraid it’s yours. You allowed the Big Tech companies to get their hands on your data in the first place. You say you don’t like it, but in practice, you don’t really care.”

Indeed, every time you search with Google instead of, say, Bing or DuckDuckGo, you’re supporting an information colossus that’s working to undo everything you hold dear.

There was a time, up until just a few years ago, when Google lived and worked by the words “Don’t be evil,” which was its unofficial motto. When it removed that language from its corporate code of conduct in 2015, we should’ve smelled a rat.

Tell all your friends: Google is evil.

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