Dr. Robert Epstein is a psychologist, professor, and author. He’s the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today.
Dr. Epstein is a liberal Democrat. In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee (see below), he described himself as a “vocal public supporter” of Hillary Clinton. He said that to characterize him as not a Republican and not a conservative is “an understatement.”
Epstein testified that in the 2016 election, Google generated a minimum of 2.6 million votes for Clinton through deceptive manipulation of search results. He warned that if, in 2020, companies like Google and Facebook all support the same presidential candidate (as surely they will) they could affect up to 15 million votes, e.g. by “go vote” reminders sent only to those believed to be Democrats.
I’m skeptical that Google sent anything approaching 2.6 million votes Hillary Clinton’s way in 2016, just as I’m skeptical that “the Russians” caused more than a handful of Americans to vote for Donald Trump. However, Epstein’s claim of a strong Google effect seems more plausible than claims of a Russia effect.
For one thing, Russian social media efforts apparently consisted of outlandish statements on social media that mirrored what others on the fringe were saying. They were a drop in the bucket — or rather the cesspool. By contrast, millions of mainstream Americans rely on Google for information without suspecting that they are being manipulated.
For another, Epstein isn’t just a respected psychologist. He’s a liberal who supported Hillary Clinton. Epstein has no political interest in arguing that her vote total was inflated through manipulation.
The parallel claim cannot be made when it comes to those who argue that Russian efforts on social media swung the election to Trump. To my knowledge, those who advance this theory are all Democrats and/or Trump haters. They have a strong political interest in claiming “we was robbed.”
Below is Epstein’s exchange with Sen. Ted Cruz on the subject of Google’s role in the 2016 election (about six minutes).
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