Robert Epstein has been researching and looking at how the biggest tech companies influence human behavior, and conducting extensive monitoring projects of bias in these companies’ products, with a particular focus on Google.
Epstein, a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology in California, called his findings “frightening” because of the tech companies’ ability to manipulate and change people’s behavior on a global scale.
“Now put that all together, you’ve got something that’s frightening, because you have sources of influence, controlled by really a handful of executives who are not accountable to any public, not the American public, not any public anywhere. They’re only accountable to their shareholders,” Epstein told Epoch TV’s “American Thought Leaders” host Jan Jekielek during a recent interview.
“And yet they hold in their hands the power to change thinking behavior on a massive scale, the power in close elections anyway, to pick the winner in the country after country after country.”
Epstein said that Google’s search engine shifted 2.6 million to 10.4 million votes to Hillary Clinton over a period of months before the 2016 election, and later shifted at least 6 million votes to Joe Biden and other Democrats.
“We calculated at one point that as of 2015, upwards of 25 percent of the national elections in the world were being controlled, being determined, by Google’s search algorithm,” he said.
Epstein is making these comments after conducting rigorous studies, spanning almost a decade, and managing to document ephemeral experiences of manipulation on Google and other companies’ platforms.
He said ephemeral experiences, such as a flashing newsfeed, a search result, or a suggested video, are the ideal form of manipulation because they aren’t recorded and are hard to document.
“They affect us, they disappear, they’re stored nowhere, and they’re gone,” Epstein said. “People have no idea they’re being manipulated, number one, and number two, authorities can’t go back in time to see what people were being shown, in other words, how they were being manipulated.”
One of his team’s recent experiments includes randomly assigning people to groups, with search results favoring candidate A in one group and favoring candidate B in the other. The idea was to shift the participants’ voting preference, which Epstein thought would be for about 3 percent of the participants.
“Very first experiment we ever ran on this, we shifted voting preferences by more than 40 percent. So I thought that’s impossible, that can’t be repeated. The experiment with another group got a shift of more than 60 percent. So I realized, wait a minute, maybe I’ve stumbled on something here.”
These findings are the greatest discovery in the behavioral and social sciences in over 100 years, according to Epstein.