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Can Google influence close election outcome?

Washington , Sat, 30 Mar 2013 ANI

Washington, Mar 30 (ANI): Internet search engine like Google can manipulate search rankings, giving an edge to a favored political candidate by pushing up flattering links and pushing down unflattering ones, an expert has said.

Psychologist Robert Epstein conducted a series of experiments testing the impact of a fictitious search engine, he called "Kadoodle".

According to the Washington Post, Epstein said not only could Kadoodle sway the outcome of close elections, it could do so in a way most voters would never notice.

Epstein, who had a public spat with Google last year, offers no evidence of actual evil acts by the company.

Yet his exploration of Kadoodle not only illuminates how search engines shape individual choices, but asks whether the government should have a role in keeping this power in check, the Post said.

According to the paper, Epstein's core finding revealed given the amount of information available about Internet users, a search engine could even tailor results for, certain groups, based on location, age, income level, past searches, Web browsing history or other factors.

The voters least tuned in to other sources of information, such as news reports or campaign advertisements, would be most vulnerable, the experiment revealed.

These are the same people who often end up in the crucial middle of American politics as coveted swing voters, it added.

Epstein said search engines have a tool far more powerful than an endorsement or a donation to affect the outcome.

According to the Post, Epstein's research is slated to be presented in Washington this spring at the annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science. (ANI)

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