Experts reveal Google, Facebook, Twitter, censor, spy on, manipulate users
NEW ORLEANS, April 9, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — A panel of media experts have two warnings for you: tech giants are collecting information on us and, worse, they are messing with our minds.
The conservative Breitbart News Network hosted a live-streamed “Town Hall” event entitled “Masters of the Universe: Big Tech vs Free Speech and Privacy” on Thursday, April 5. Breitbart’s editor-in-chief Alex Marlow moderated a panel composed of author Ann Coulter, journalist Peter Schweitzer and Robert Epstein, a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioural Research and Technology.
Their shared concern was how the internet, hitherto a boon for conservatives, is being shaped and censored by left-leaning technology firms, particularly Google, Twitter and Facebook. (Watch MUST SEE video of entire forum below. Discussion begins at 17:11)
Event modertor Alex Marlow, Breitbart News editor in chief, started off emphasizing that supposed "consumers" of Google, Facebook and Twitter are actually "the product" from which the Tech giants gain their multi-billions of income. That is, the oligarchs track and sell massive amounts of personal information that is culled from their unaware users.
Marlow told his live audience,
"You guys are not the consumers, you guys are actually the product. You are what is being sold and it's being done completely clandestinely. Never in the history of the American Republic, and really the Western world, have so few unelected people achieved so much power and so much influence in such a short period of time."
Introducing Ann Coulter, Marlow asked her to explain what she means in describing this as "the ultimate free speech issue of our day." Coulter stated she has long feared that "I’ll wake up one day and try to go to Breitbart and can’t get there. I will try to email you and won’t be able to get there. I won’t be able to find the Drudge Report..."
“The Internet has been a disaster for the Left,” Ann Coulter continued. “The Left already controls all the institutions. They have all the networks. They have all the newspapers. They have the schools. They have the universities. They’re teaching preschoolers ‘white privilege.’ They can’t possibly gain anything from the Internet.”
This is why they are now trying to control it, Coulter believes, hand-in-glove with left-wing media who have been trying to sell the idea that online conservative news sites manufacture “fake news.” Coulter praised American president Donald Trump for having thrown the expression back at the left-wing media.
Facebook, Twitter, and Google spy on and manipulate users
Robert Epstein explained that Facebook, Twitter, and Google are actively spying on users and influencing what information we receive from their websites.
“Even Twitter makes decisions about whether or not Ann Coulter’s tweets are going to go to her followers or not,” he said. “That is called shadowbanning, and that has been documented. They actually do that.”
“I could go on forever about the censorship problem,” he continued. “These companies, they determine what we’re going to see and what we’re not going to see. Sometimes they put fancy language on it, like they’re going to suppress fake news stories.”
“The fact is, we don’t know what rules they’re applying, and there’s lots of evidence now that they are systematically suppressing political views that they just don’t like — not just on the Right, by the way, but progressives as well. They just go after anyone they want to, and there’s nothing we can do about it. There’s no recourse,” he said.
Robert Epstein pointed to Google in particular as spying on users.
“All Gmails, outgoing, the ones you write, and incoming — no matter what email service they’re coming from — they are all recorded, analyzed, every detail is put into your personal profile,” he said.
“Even those Gmails that you type, and we’ve all done this — you type it and you go ‘Oh no, I can’t send this, that’s insane, I’m not gonna send this’ and you hit delete — that’s already been recorded! That’s part of your profile.”
“This gets worse,” he continued. “This might be the scariest thing I can tell you this evening. I work a lot with reporters … I do what’s called ‘expanding the headers,’ which means that when I get emails from editors at TIME magazine, the New York Times, the Guardian, I want to see what computers those emails have run through. Guess what?”
“These big news companies all use Google to run their email system! All those emails are running through Google servers. Google has full access — I’m talking about some of the top journalists in the world, who are investigating Google — they’re sharing all of their communications, all of their work products, all of the drafts — they’re sharing it all with Google!”
Epstein recommended that people stop using Gmail, Google Chrome, and Android.
Google’s search results favored Hillary Clinton in run-up to 2016 elections
The psychologist’s research has also revealed that Google manipulates what people find when they type a search term into the engine. For over five years and through four national elections, Epstein has studied how many votes or opinions Google can change this way.
“It turns out that what’s at the top of the list, people believe is better and truer than what’s lower in the list,” said Epstein. “That’s why 50 percent of the clicks go to the top two items.”
This means that it matters in elections which names and what information appears at the top of a Google search list.
“If you favor one candidate in search results among voters who are undecided, you can easily shift at least 20 percent of them towards that candidate, up to 80 percent,” Epstein said. “And at least one demographic group that we found and the most vulnerable group that we’ve ever found in our five years of studies, is moderate Republicans.”
And when Epstein’s team monitored Google’s search results in the six months leading up to the 2016 American elections, they discovered a strange bias.
“We found that Google’s search results favored Hillary Clinton in all ten positions of those search results on the first page for almost all of those six months leading up to the election,” Epstein revealed. “Now that’s enough to shift two to three million votes, at least, without anyone knowing that they have been manipulated.”
His team also discovered that it was difficult to nudge Google into providing negative information about Hillary Clinton. Eight people on Epstein’s staff spend the summer of 2016 trying to get “negatives” from search engines for the Democrat candidate.
“So, for example, we typed in on Bing and Yahoo, ‘Hillary Clinton is….’ and we get ‘Hillary Clinton is the devil’, ‘Hillary Clinton is sick’, Hillary Clinton is dying of cancer’, literally eight or ten extremely negative search results because that’s what people were, in fact, searching for,” Epstein recalled.
“So then we go to Google, I have screenshots of all of this, we type in ‘Hillary Clinton is…’ and we get ‘Hillary Clinton is awesome’, ‘Hillary Clinton is winning’, and that’s it.”
Peter Schweitzer, president of the Government Accountability Institute, also accused Google of manipulating users. His message could be summed up as “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”
“When you first look at Google on the surface, it’s a great company,” he said. “They give you this incredible search capability, this access to information basically for free, in the sense that you’re not paying a fee for it, but what you always have to keep in mind, the old saying, ‘The extent for which they can do something for you, they can do something to you,’ and then the question becomes is what are Google’s goals and ends?”
“We know they’re a business, we know these guys have become fabulously wealthy, that is certainly part of their goal,” Schweitzer continued. “There’s a business, they want to make money, but there’s always been lurking this sort of Utopian sense of social mission. However you want to define it, that Google has.”
“There’s no question they’re manipulating us,” he warned. “The question is why. Some of it, of course, is to monetize, but the other part of it resembles this sort of social mission, this desire to steer us into directions that we may not want to go. To get us to embrace certain ideas or our children to embrace certain ideas and values that they think are important, and the manner in which they do that is precisely what we’ve been discussing.”
Is Big Tech playing God?
Schweitzer said that although Americans have a sense of media bias, they cannot make judgements about information that they are not getting. This is very troubling when tech giants are actively trying to “suppress certain ideas.”
“If you spend five minutes watching the news you can detect oftentimes the media bias. The problem with this: You don’t know what you don’t know. You don’t know, ultimately, what information you’re not getting, and they’re giving you this sort of facade that they’re giving you the best, they’re giving you the most accurate, they’re giving you the most informative, and the bottom line is that simply isn’t true.”
He cited Sergey Brin, one of the co-founders of Google, saying that the perfect search engine will resemble the mind of God.
“What does that mean?” Schweitzer demanded. “And who is God? Does that make the people writing the algorithms God? Do they have a Godlike sense of their purpose?”
“I think this is one of the reasons we have to have greater transparency,” he concluded. “We need to know what they are feeding these algorithms and what is in a sense being fed to us, and being fed to our children, and being fed to our family members, because if we don’t know that, we are completely flying blind.”
* This article reports only some highlights of the discussion. For complete details watch the video of the event beginning at 17:11.