Study: Search engines can change an election

Democracy at Risk: Manipulating Search Rankings Can Shift Voters’ Preferences Substantially Without Their Awareness

Robert Epstein & Ronald E. Robertson
American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology
In a double-blind controlled experiment,web pages and search engine results from an actual election were presented to three
searchenginesgroups of eligible voters. In two of the groups, rankings favored one candidate over the other. Preferences shifted dramatically toward favored candidates, with 75% of subjects showing no awareness of the manipulation. In a second experiment, voter preferences again shifted in the predicted direction, and the proportion of people who were unaware of the manipulation was increased by slightly altering the rankings to mask the favoritism. In a third experiment,a more aggressive mask was used to hide the manipulation, and no subjects showed any awareness of it, even though voter preferences still shifted in the predicted directions. We conclude (1) that the outcomes of real elections—especially tight races—can conceivably be determined by the strategic manipulation of search engine rankings and (2) that the manipulation can be accomplished without people being aware of it. We speculate that unregulated search engines could pose a serious threat to the democratic system of government.

Read More – EPSTEIN_and_Robertson_2013-Democracy_at_Risk

About Albert N. Milliron 6991 Articles
Albert Milliron is the founder of Politisite. Milliron has been credentialed by most major news networks for Presidential debates and major Political Parties for political event coverage. Albert maintains relationships with the White House and State Department to provide direct reporting from the Administration’s Press team. Albert is the former Public Relations Chairman of the Columbia County Republican Party in Georgia. He is a former Delegate. Milliron is a veteran of the US Army Medical Department and worked for Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Psychiatry.

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