Election Universe

Can Google rig elections? – the rebuttal

Can Google rig elections? – the rebuttal
October 08 2015, 14:09

Amit Singhal, senior vice president and software engineer at Google, responded Robert Epstein’s article which suggested that Google had the power to shift the voting preferences of undecided voters. Given the importance of this topic, we had written a post about Epstein’s piece last month.

In this new article, published in Politico on August 26, Singhal questions the validity of Epstein’s arguments claiming that: “There is absolutely no truth to Epstein’s hypothesis that Google could work secretly to influence election outcomes. Google has never ever re-ranked search results on any topic (including elections) to manipulate user sentiment. Moreover, we do not make any ranking tweaks that are specific to elections or political candidates.”

As a way to prove Google’s commitment to election transparency, Singhal points to the Voting Information Project, a partnership between The Pew Charitable Trusts, Google, and the states of the US to ensure that voters have the information about where to vote and what’s on their ballots.

This debate has been in the news for over a year now, and will probably endure. Back in 2014 the India Times published an article entitled “Did Google Fix Lok Sabha Elections 2014?” which presented the conclusions of Epstein’s studies. Being the 2014 Lok Sabha elections the largest democratic elections ever conducted, the article didn’t go unnoticed and a few days later Alex Hern wrote a piece in The Guardian to rebut the claims.

Putting all the noise aside, there is an underlying problem surfacing here. The advent of IT is bringing a new challenge to election administrators. They need to come up with efficient methods to monitor how information is presented in search engines just as tv and radio air time is controlled during campaigning.

Image via Pixabay