I think the months before the president-elect Donald Trump takes office are the perfect time to reflect on different aspects of our nation’s recent election. The effect that social media and the internet had on the election results are particularly interesting.
Many of us could not help but be surprised by Trump’s election. Based on what I had been exposed to on social media, I was almost sure that the odds were in favor of Hillary Clinton.
Throughout election season, my social media feeds were filled with biased anti-Trump posts. The sheer amount of these types of posts actually made me pay less attention to them.
However, once in a while, one of these posts would turn my world upside down in a matter of a minutes. The negative post that stuck out in my mind discussed the nature of the internet and political campaigns themselves.
This post was a video claiming that Google manufactured supposedly “popular” search results for Clinton, so that positive news showed up more often.
While I did not completely believe what the video claimed, I could not stop thinking that even if Google did not actually support Clinton through biased search results, the company certainly had the power to do so. I found this very scary.
To be perfectly clear, I am not asserting that a private company cannot support a candidate over the other. That would breach the freedom of speech. For example, I thought it perfectly fine when Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, announced his company’s public support of Clinton.
However, there is a line between a website announcing public support for a candidate and dishonestly rigging website algorithms in a candidate’s favor.
I do not care how Zuckerberg is voting, but I am influenced by the supposedly true information that shows up on my Facebook feed.
These internet giants have the power to influence each and every one of us. For the most part, companies like Facebook and Google have been using these powers to gain profits through various advertisement schemes.
With the huge amount of personal data these sites access, they can analyze our pattern of internet behavior and gain ideas of which products we might enjoy.
When I see a sponsored post on Facebook or an orange search result from Google, which clearly reveal themselves as advertisements, I simply feel this is the price I pay to use these companies’ services for free.
However, it is unacceptable for these companies to dishonestly advertise certain positions on national politics, which are too important for this kind of behavior.
According to Gizmodo, “Facebook workers routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network’s influential “trending” news section, according to a former journalist who worked on the project.”
When this was brought up to Zuckerberg, he fervently denied this claim. According to the Washington Times, the CEOs of both Google and Facebook have denied “institutional political bias.”
I am not arguing that Facebook or Google has been working with a bias. They may have, or may not. No one can prove it either way, and this is the thing I think is dangerous.
These companies that serve us so much supposedly true information are not being regulated to prevent bias.
The level of influence these companies have over people justifies that the representative of people—the government— should regulate their algorithms for making certain that the “truth” is not being framed in favor of company biases.
At this point, I cannot envision how such regulations would work, but I definitely feel such regulations are necessary.
Ironically enough, watching that one internet video I cannot confirm to be true has radically changed my whole perception of the internet—which is part of the problem.
It now seems almost impossible for me to trust any conclusions I have formed based on what these websites have shown me or accept anyone else’s opinions I know have stemmed from them.