Three Republican senators called on Google’s top executive to respond to allegations that the tech giant manipulated pre-election vote reminder messages on its search platform to benefit Democrats, potentially shifting “millions of votes.”
A letter signed by GOP Senators Ron Johnson (Wis.), Ted Cruz (Texas), and Mike Lee (Utah), and addressed to Google CEO Sundar Pichai (pdf), claims that an academic election monitoring project found that, for several days ahead of Election Day, Google displayed get-out-the-vote messages only to liberals and not to conservatives.
The senators wrote that, on Nov. 4, they were informed by Dr. Robert Epstein, a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, about the troubling results of his election-related field study.
“One of our most disturbing findings so far is that between Monday, October 26th (the day our system became fully operational) and Thursday, October 29th, only our liberal field agents received vote reminders on Google’s home page. Conservatives did not receive even a single vote reminder,” Epstein said, according to the senators.
“This kind of targeting, if present nationwide, could shift millions of votes, in part because Google’s home page is seen 500 million times a day in the U.S.,” Epstein told them, adding that Google stopped “this manipulation four days before Election Day.”
The senators claimed that the findings run counter to Pichai’s recent testimony before the House Committee on the Judiciary, in which he said Google does not do any work “to politically tilt anything one way or the other. It’s against our core values.” They added that, in a follow-on letter to Johnson and Lee, the top executive wrote that “Google does not modify any products, including Search, to promote a particular political viewpoint…[we] will not do so for the upcoming 2020 presidential election.”
The Republican senators concluded, based on Epstein’s remarks, that Pichai’s assertions about Google not doing any work to “politically tilt anything one way or the other” are false and called on him to respond.
“We are writing to provide you another opportunity to conduct a thorough review with your management team to determine the veracity of your previous responses to congressional inquiry regarding this issue, and correct your answers if necessary,” they wrote, requesting a response by Nov. 12.
A Google spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Epoch Times.
Epstein, in an interview last year with American Thought Leaders, discussed some of the methods that tech giants like Google and Facebook can use to shift users’ attitudes, beliefs, and potentially votes. In that interview, Epstein spoke of a study he did on the impact of a “go vote” reminder Google displayed during the 2018 mid-term elections. He concluded that, because of the demographics of Google users, the display of that message to all users irrespective of political affiliation would have led to 800,000 more votes for Democrats.
However, if Google had displayed the get-out-the-vote message selectively “to people who are Democrats or people who lean left, then the impact, the differential impact would have been greater,” he noted.
“And in the extreme case that would have given upwards of 4.6 million more votes to Democrats than to Republicans,” Epstein said.