Furthest Right

The Digital Branch of Government


It may well be time to update some of the stale linguistics that describe the ongoing political efforts to game democratic governance. Perhaps the terms Google Nudge, Google Auction or even worse; Google Veto need to be added to the lexicon. This new anti-democratic influence on political decision-making is emerging because of a confluence of technology, ideology and material means to effect said dominance. The technology is the internet search engine, the ideology is Progressive Liberaltarianism* and the material means is the obvious wellspring of vast wealth that has been accumulated in Silicon Valley.

The internet search engine works as a technological conduit by which information can be gathered, sorted and delivered for consumption via the personal computer or other digital platforms. When you control a utility; you also control a bottle neck. Google currently dominates the search engine industry. This means they also have the option to control or auction what bit of information makes it through the search engine queue first. Given the Modern high time preference, this is an awesome power to control what people think. Robert Epstein explains the limiting power of this conduit.

That ordered list is so good, in fact, that about 50 per cent of our clicks go to the top two items, and more than 90 per cent of our clicks go to the 10 items listed on the first page of results; few people look at other results pages…

So given the limited queue time to get your information read and the awesome power of the internet search engine, who shows up where in a search priority is a huge monetary event for the people publishing the information.

Because people are far more likely to read and click on higher-ranked items, companies now spend billions of dollars every year trying to trick Google’s search algorithm – the computer program that does the selecting and ranking – into boosting them another notch or two. Moving up a notch can mean the difference between success and failure for a business, and moving into the top slots can be the key to fat profits.

So how does this translate into political power? Through the Search Engine Manipulation Effect. What internet users get shown, influences what they see of the truth and how they view the world around them.

We present evidence from five experiments in two countries suggesting the power and robustness of the search engine manipulation effect (SEME). Specifically, we show that (i) biased search rankings can shift the voting preferences of undecided voters by 20% or more, (ii) the shift can be much higher in some demographic groups, and (iii) such rankings can be masked so that people show no awareness of the manipulation. Knowing the proportion of undecided voters in a population who have Internet access, along with the proportion of those voters who can be influenced using SEME, allows one to calculate the win margin below which SEME might be able to determine an election outcome.

Corporations and workers who make a living controlling power internet sites gain a measure of political power by their proximity to the data conduits. Here is an example of how this may occur in future elections.

To test the hypothesis that political behavior can spread through an online social network, we conducted a randomized controlled trial with all users of at least 18 years of age in the United States who accessed the Facebook website on 2 November 2010, the day of the US congressional elections. Users were randomly assigned to a ‘social message’ group, an ‘informational message’ group or a control group. The social message group (n= 60,055,176) was shown a statement at the top of their ‘News Feed’. This message encouraged the user to vote, provided a link to find local polling places, showed a clickable button reading ‘I Voted’, showed a counter indicating how many other Facebook users had previously reported voting, and displayed up to six small randomly selected ‘profile pictures’ of the user’s Facebook friends who had already clicked the I Voted button (Fig. 1). The informational message group (n=611,044) was shown the message, poll information, counter and button, but they were not shown any faces of friends. The control group (n=613,096) did not receive any message at the top of their News Feed.

People receiving the “social message” were 0.39% more likely to vote than those who did not. Out of approximately 610,000 voters, this makes turnout increase by a notch under 2,500. When so-called social-contagion is taken into account, this increase in turnout becomes 0.60% or something on the order 3,800 to 4,000 out of 610,000. Out of an electorate of 240 Million (approximate US eligible voters); this would be almost 1.5 million votes. If these votes were to be effectively controlled and aimed, this could “nudge” a close election such as Bush v. Gore in a desired direction. Hence we have our possible Google Nudge.

What happens when an election (or a primary contest) is projected to go down to the wire? Any good OR analyst working for a politician then has to consider the Google Nudge a mathematically significant variable. Politicians pay their mathematicians to perform two functions: identify these variables and manipulate them to favor the politician or not impact the election.

The people who run Google are brilliant engineers and better-than-passable business professionals. They have a good they can use to trade/leverage the politician running in a close election. It becomes time to either hold an auction or determine the outcome of the election. If Google is indifferent to which side wins, they can call up both campaigns and ask them “What’cha gonna’ do me?” The candidates then change their platforms/proposals to adopt a more Google-Compliant agenda. This allows Google to choose between which political candidate will be a more profitable/reliable Sugar Daddy for regulatory capture.

The Google Veto is more pernicious. Google could decide that Candidate A is a flaming rectal orifice who is completely iniquitous to the corporate interest. At this point, they will slant the results, flood the meme-zone with anti-A SEME and use their abilities to drive all 1.5 million voters to the polls to vote for B. Google would only have to hack one election to prove its point and permanently accrue a measure of power over national governance. This gives Google, Apple, Facebook and all the rest the ability to hack and rewire democracy to their tastes at any juncture where electoral politics are competitive.

This makes potential Google Nudges, Google Auctions and Google Vetoes stochastically unpredictable and chaotic anti-democratic features of the current system. It would lead to greater chaos, enhanced social entropy, stilted economic growth and eroded social cohesion. An unpredictable life is rarely pleasant, productive or beneficial. Silicon Valley thereby becomes a Liberaltarian engine of destruction that further accelerates the unraveling of America into Amerika. This digital branch of government could become yet another force that works to lay basic decency to nines.

*-Social Liberalism combined with crony capitalism. Think regulatory capture with open borders, anti-religious agitation and complete undermining of all non-governmental social support structures.

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