In this simple way, Google can play with your mind, the way Cambridge Analytica did

What Cambridge Analytica did, could be followed by Google

From Cambridge Analytica we know to what extent we can be manipulated through social networks or search engines using our personal data and our behavior on the network as the most accurate psychological analysis system.

However, to incline a mass of people to decide electorally for one or another political option does not require great strategies, but a few simple changes in the results of a search engine like Google, as this study showed of 2015.

First results

Google can change our worldview because our worldview, in large part, is already determined by the first results that appear in this search engine. Not so much of the results that appear below, or of those that appear on the second page, but of the first ones.

The aforementioned study focused on the elections 2014 in India. The researchers, led by psychologist Robert Epstein, recruited 2150 undecided voters across the country and gave them access to a specifically designed search engine, called Kadoodle, which in theory was going to advise them about the candidates before deciding to who to vote.

Kadoodle, however, was programmed to give results matched to each other, skewing the results in favor of one candidate or another. What happened was that all the links at the top of the page favored a specific candidate, and many links had to be downloaded until one was found that favored the other candidate.

The simple order of presentation of the links already had a significant influence on user opinions: when asked who they were going to vote for, the probability of choosing the candidate favored by Kadoodle increased by 12 percent. As Hannah Fry abounds in her book Hello World. How to remain human in the era of algorithms:

It is not surprising, then, that the participants spent most of their time viewing the websites featured at the top of the first page; As an old Internet scam says, the best place to hide a body is the second page of Google’s search results.

In another book, Weapons of Mathematical Destruction, Cathy O’Neil strips statistical errors and the fallacious neutrality of certain mathematical models, and uses an analogy to describe how we should face the current state of affairs: as well as the appalling conditions in factories of the Industrial Revolution forced to impose labor laws, “our era requires legislation that protects citizens from abuses perpetrated through data mining.”