Could Google Swing the Next Election?

I have no idea, but that’s the question Wired magazine asks, though more ominously that I put it:

Google’s Search Algorithm Could Steal the Presidency

IMAGINE 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.

In other words: Google’s ranking algorithm for search results could accidentally steal the presidency. “We estimate, based on win margins in national elections around the world,” says Robert Epstein, a psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology and one of the study’s authors, “that Google could determine the outcome of upwards of 25 percent of all national elections.”

Read the whole thing if you have time. I have no idea if there’s much to this, but beyond the techniques of “data mining” implied here, it should be filed away that Silicon Valley, and Google in particular, lean to the left, and even when not consciously left, tend toward an authoritarian elitism that is troubling. If Google could swing an election, there’s no doubt which way they’d swing it.