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Leonid Bershidsky

Google Isn't Swaying Voters, But It Could

Search engines could easily tweak their algorithms to influence views about a candidate.
Power players.

Power players.

Photographer: Kimberly White/Getty Images)

Long before artificial intelligence brings about the singularity, algorithms are having an influence over our most important decisions, including which candidate to back in elections. The danger this could go too far is real and we probably need some well-considered regulatory intervention.

Earlier this week, the U.S. psychologist Robert Epstein published a harsh article about Google's alleged manipulation of its search suggestion feature. When you start typing in Google's search window, it suggests ways to autocomplete the request. Epstein showed, for example, that when a user entered "Hillary Clinton is...," Google suggested finishing the sentence with "is winning" or "is awesome." Other search engines, Bing and Yahoo, completed the sentence differently: "Hillary Clinton is a liar."