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Google Search Could Influence Election Results, According to Researchers

Google search has the power to rig the 2016 election, at least that’s what researchers at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology have come to believe.

According to their study, something called the Search Engine Manipulation Effect (SEME) has the ability to shift the opinions of undecided voters by 20% or more.

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. That’s a dangerous amount of power for one company to have, the researchers argue:

“Because SEME is virtually invisible as a form of social influence, because the effect is so large and because there are currently no specific regulations anywhere in the world that would prevent Google from using and abusing this technique, we believe SEME is a serious threat to the democratic system of government.”

In response, Google stated:

“Providing relevant answers has been the cornerstone of Google’s approach to search from the very beginning. It would undermine the people’s trust in our results and company if we were to change course.”

In other words whether or not Google has the power to influence election results is arguable, but even if it could the company wouldn’t risk its reputation on it.

This study does leave you with something to consider. If Google’s search results could influence a decision as important as who to vote for to lead your country, imagine the influence it has on whether or not someone buys your product or service.

Google yourself or your business and see what comes up. Is it positive? Negative? Would you “vote” for yourself after seeing what comes up in the search results?

Something worth considering after reading about that study.

Editorial Credit: Shutterstock

Category News
SEJ STAFF Matt G. Southern Senior News Writer at Search Engine Journal

Matt G. Southern, Senior News Writer, has been with Search Engine Journal since 2013. With a bachelor’s degree in communications, ...

Google Search Could Influence Election Results, According to Researchers

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