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Can Internet Giants Steal the Election?

28 Jun 2016 | Posted Under Internet
Recent headlines have stated that Facebook has been caught filtering conservative blogs and news items from their timeline. Google is said to have been caught skewing and filtering political search in an attempt to favor Hillary Clinton. When you Google something, you expect Google to provide you the best results based on your intended search criteria. After all, Google has publicly stated that this is their goal (read: Google is Playing Musical Chairs with Ranking and it will Cost Us Billions)! However, the steady stream of articles stating the contrary implies the opposite. When you post something on Facebook, you want your friends, family and co-workers to see the post. You don't expect Facebook to decide who gets to see and share your post. Yet Facebook algorithm seems to decided differently. It appears, at least on the surface, that Facebook's algorithm or editorial board decides for us. Your Facebook timeline is not yours to control. Your posts aren’t being displayed according to what you think your wishes are. Everything is being filtered! 
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These companies are deciding what you, your friends, family and coworkers are allowed to see! To make matters worse, it's very hard to part the curtains on these big companies, but there seems to be ample evidence (if you believe all the articles out there) that they are either lying, cheating, trying to deceive us (or their algorithms have just gone crazy). The truth is, the media has always filtered what we get to read, hear and watch. However, the internet has taken the game to a whole new level. Analog media was more regional and did not have billions of subscribers the way some internet media companies do. Digital media seems to be saying that they know what we want to see, share and display better than we do. The sheer number of articles about Facebook and Google’s alleged media bias speaks volumes. Many of these articles have even implied that Google and Facebook are trying to influence the upcoming Presidential election. 

In this episode or Working the Web to Win, we will delve into these alleged deceptive practices that Internet Giants Google and Facebook have been reportedly engaging in. Are Google and Facebook actually manipulating the public as if we were puppets on their strings? Do they actually have that power?  I want you to read on and determine for yourself. Check out the many articles listed on our 6-28-16 notes page. And yes, you need to read this week’s episode of Working the Web to Win and see the evidence for yourself so that you can determine if Google and Facebook now control the Horizontal and Vertical of your Internet Life.
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Now in case you think that these are the raving of a mad republican, conservative, you’d be wrong. I am conservative on some issues, but I am a lifelong Democrat. However, I have always voted for the person who I believe is the most honest (if a politician can be called honest) and the person who offered what I believed to be the best solutions to the main problems of the day. 

Many of you know me as a security and privacy advocate. I have stated many times that we give these large corporations’ too much access to our personal data and too much control of our interpersonal and business communications.  Now many in the press are not only saying they are spying on us by collecting massive amounts of data from us, they are also trying to manipulate our decision making processes with deception, bias and lies. Here's my real life example!

I saw a video posted by a friend to my Facebook timeline by which talked about how Google skews and filters negative Hillary Clinton searches, which other search engines were not filtering. In the video, it appears that Google was showing people skewed search results. I did not believe it at first so I went and tested everything the video said, and sure enough, it appears that the results were being skewed (whether on purpose or by accident, I leave up to you).  I reposted and shared the video on my timeline on Facebook and other places. 

The next day, I had a lot of trouble finding my post on Facebook. It was not showing up in my timeline. After about an hour of searching, I found it by doing a graph search. When I did find it, the video image was no longer showing in the post. Facebook had altered my timeline and the post.

Other large social networks are not doing this. I looked at my Post on LinkedIn and Twitter and they showed up as posted. I also looked at Google+, but I have no easy way of knowing if people could see my post for any length of time. But at least from what I could see, it was unaltered.
My Facebook page now showing post.

I went back and reposted the video again and this time I publicly stated that Facebook may pull this post downand that people need to view the video before it disappeared. I further pin it to the top of my page to get as much exposure as possible. To Facebook credit, it stayed up, unaltered this time. Facebook left it alone, but I have no real way of knowing if anyone actually saw it since personal pages don’t have insight analytics. 

So if you think I’m the only one who is a little paranoid about this issue, you would be absolutely wrong. At the beginning of this article I mention several articles about censorship and bias in the media. Now I want to provide several examples of these articles so you can make up your own mind and begin to see the sheer magnitude of this issue.

After experiencing my Facebook episode first hand, I decided to do a little research to see if others had seen this kind of search censorship and timeline manipulation. Lo and behold, there were hundreds of articles relating to this subject. Again, our blogs note page dated 6-28-16 has many more links to articles and you can do a search for yourself to see the large number of articles out there. I recommend doing your search using Yahoo, Bing or even DuckDuckGo just so you have peace of mind. The following is just a small sample of what I saw.
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In an article called “Google Search Algorithm Could Steal the Presidency”, the author, Adam Rodgers statesIMAGINE AN ELECTION—A close one. You’re undecided. So you type the name of one of the candidates into your search engine of choice. (Actually, let’s not be coy here. In most of the world, one search engine dominates; in Europe and North America, it’s Google.) And Google coughs up, in fractions of a second, articles and facts about that candidate. Great! Now you are an informed voter, right? But a study published this week says that the order of those results, the ranking of positive or negative stories on the screen, can have an enormous influence on the way you vote. And if the election is close enough, the effect could be profound enough to change the outcome.” That’s right, they are saying that Googles’ search algorithm could directly affect the voters’ decision making and influence their final vote!

Now this does not prove that Google is directly acting in a biased way. It is possible that their algorithm favors certain types of posts or it’s possible the liberals have figured out how to game the system in some way. Google denies any wrong doing. You need to make up your own mind.

In another article on PJ Media, by Rick Moran, Moran states that “Google's algorithm is proprietary, so forget about anyone seeing it to determine the cause of this effect. But it would be interesting to see if one party or the other was usually or always negatively impacted by the ranking of search results.  The rankings of positive and negative stories are a by-product of the algorithm -- not the intent of Google managers. But could Google -- or a campaign -- actually game the system to manipulate a desired result?” What a great question!
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Even the Huffington post, (not a bastion of conservatism) ran an article where Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder, (another person not in the conservative camp) states at a conference in Mexico City, that “Google was now Hillary’s secret weapon,” and it was reported that he provided lots of material showing that this Google conspiracy was the real deal. I don’t want to single out Google here. Since I have provided several examples about Google, let’s look at some of the recent articles published purporting Facebook's censorship and media bias as well.

On May 9th, 2016, in Fox Nation, a report by Michael Nunez Gizmodo had the headline“Report: Former Facebook Workers: We Routinely Suppressed Conservative News”.Gizmodo’s article states that Facebook workers routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network’s influential “trending” news section, according to a former journalist who worked on the project. This individual says that workers prevented stories about the right-wing CPAC gathering, Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, and other conservative topics from appearing in the highly-influential section, even though they were organically trending among the site’s users. Several former Facebook “news curators,” as they were known internally, also told Gizmodo that they were instructed to artificially “inject” selected stories into the trending news module, even if they weren’t popular enough to warrant inclusion—or in some cases weren’t trending at all.” Now if that doesn’t scare you read on. 

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The next article I read made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.  I found this article in Fortuneand it should make you take notice. The article starts out by stating the obvious, that suppressing conservative speech is controversial and that Facebook denied it was filtering conservative news. The article further goes on to state that, As a number of observers have pointed out (including Fortune), the question isn’t so much whether Facebook filters out certain kinds of news—something that newspapers and other media entities do every day without much scrutiny. The real point is that Facebook is orders of magnitude larger and more influential than any traditional media outlet, and yet the way it chooses the news its billion users see is still fundamentally opaque.” That’s right Facebook doesn’t have to be transparent on how they get new or how they share news, even though the provide it to billions of people every day.

Since Facebook’s initial denial of any bias or filtering, the world’s most popular social network has instituted special anti-bias training for its editorial staff to make sure bias is not taking place. After reading this, the first question that came to my mind was; If Facebook wasn’t engaged in editorial bias, then why would they need anti-bias training? 
More recently, Facebook has allegedly shown that it's still trying to influence politics because they have been accused of editorial bias with regards to Brexit election in England. This time they are accused of being on the conservative side. The article states, The Brexit-related accusations came about after it was noticed that Facebook offered a ready-made status update proclaiming to be “in favour of leaving the EU”, but didn’t have a balancing pro-remain option as easily accessible. Despite this, Facebook categorically denies any form of bias.”

Now it should be no secret that the media has been filtering the news since news was invented. First of all, no news or media service can provide “all the facts all of the time”. In my opinion, the real problem is the sheer volume of influence internet media giants have over the public at large. Before the internet, TV had the greatest sway, but even the large networks were still divided into multiple markets and none of them had a 70% global market share. 
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Today internet media giants like Facebook, with 1.5 billion subscriber’s and Google, which controls more than 70% of all internet searches, have a de facto stranglehold on what is presented to more than 25% of the world’s population. These private corporations don’t have any semblance of transparency as to how they decide what we are shown. On top of that, it's nearly impossible to part the curtains to see what they are doing. So far the vast amount of articles that allege impropriety is growing. Will we be able to discover if they are directly trying to influence the election before it takes place? That’s yet to be seen. What they stand to gain or lose should be on everyone's mind. 

For years’ conservative groups have claimed media bias and current events are providing an ever growing mountain of evidence that this may be the case. When I did a search on media bias and internet censorship (just on the Google and Facebook stories) I found more than 50 articles in a matter of minutes. Since then I have found hundreds more. 

Although media bias is not something new, the fact that a few companies control the access
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to so large a market is. As a people, we need to demand that these companies act transparently and provide us with unbiased news as often as possible (especially since they say they are).  If we allow any news organ to engage in deceptive practices, we are giving up our ability to make informed political decisions. In essence, we will be losing our freedom to choose. If the allegations purported in the many articles discussed in this story are true, then Google and Facebook are at the very lease trying to influence our votes, if not steal the election. I personally don’t have a problem with Facebook or Google trying to overtly influence voters as long as they openly admit this fact. My issue is that they shouldn’t be permitted to cloak their activities under the guise of reporting the news.  

Make sure you do your due diligence on everything you read on the internet. Anyone can publish anything and call it the truth. To make matters even worse, large corporation’s and even our own government has been shown to use the news to push their agenda and to convince the public to make decisions that are not always in their best interest. As Americans, it is our duty to make informed decisions and vote our conscience. To do that we need unbiased news sources. To ensure that, make sure you do your internet searches on multiple search engines. This election, we need to be informed voters by reading, and we need to dig deeper into Fact to make sure you know the facts. If we do this, we will make informed decisions that are based on multiple points of view. This will assure that we pass down America’s liberty and freedom to our children and future generations to come. 

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