Could social networks and search engines shape the US elections?


There is not much time left until the 2020 US Election, and the tension is rising. It is hard to predict the winner between the current President Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Many factors will play a role in deciding the next POTUS, and nobody should underestimate large media companies’ influence.

How will Facebook and Google shape the US election? Even these companies confirmed that they are aware of their potential influence on the voters, but are they doing something about it? Here is an overview of how major companies have affected these and past elections, and whether it is possible to establish some order in this pre-election chaos.

The Role of ‘Embeds’ – Did They Help Trump to Win the 2016 Election?

Did you know that ‘embeds’ might have played a crucial role in helping Trump come out as a winner of the 2016 Election?

First of all, let’s clarify the term ‘embed’ in this case. Major internet players, such as Twitter and Facebook, don’t hide that they send their employees to their highest-paying advertising clients. These employees are called ‘embeds,’ and their goal is to help the advertisers identify the best strategy to achieve the desired results.

While that sounds like a good business strategy, what if the highest-paying advertiser is a political campaign? That is what happens in the elections year, but it doesn’t stop Facebook and other media from offering their embeds.

The difference during the 2016 election process was that Hillary Clinton refused the help of social media operatives, while Trump accepted it. The Democrats tried to develop their apparatus for informing people over the web, but did that turn out to be the wrong move? Nobody would guarantee that Clinton would win with the help of the ‘embeds,’ but did they affect the result.

A Study That Revealed Them All

A study released in the Political Communication journal revealed that Facebook and other networks were extensively involved in the campaign via their ‘embeds.’ The authors of the study argue that social media administrators didn’t stop the so-called “fake news” from spreading. Additionally, they discuss the role of these operatives in the campaigns.

According to the study, the operatives didn’t hesitate to identify what photos and updates would perform best on social networks, including the dark posts that could deliver inaccurate content.

Twitter operatives analyzed the performance of the tweets of people who participated in the campaign. Based on that, they would recommend the next moves and how to shape updates for better results. Even Google assisted the candidates by helping them position their advertisements better when it comes to determining particular ads’ locations.

Ultimately, it all depends on the point of view. For starters, who better to help you to maximize the social networks than people working there? Additionally, the services of ‘embeds’ were offered to both candidates. If you look at it this way, Clinton is the only one to blame for not taking advantage of that. It is a valuable asset that her team didn’t recognize as important.

Facebook Is Aware That It Can Affect the Election Outcome

Social media has to power to influence the way people think. That might be something we are all afraid of, but what if we tell you that these networks don’t even hide that? According to numerous reports, Facebook is well aware that it could influence people’s voting decisions. After all, if they can point you in the direction of buying a particular product, why wouldn’t they be capable of telling you who to vote?

You will find various success advertising stories on Facebook. Although they removed it, one related to the 2016 Election had been there earlier. It was a story about how Ted Cruz managed to win Iowa over Trump when the Republican nominee was supposed to be chosen.

The idea was simple – Facebook used its data to reveal the advertisements that would turn those who would vote Carson into those that will vote Cruz. The experts created a campaign that focused on Cruz as an outsider who would change everything in D.C. They also launched another ad that trashed the coziness that Trump has had.

Cruz didn’t only win Iowa by using the services of Facebook experts, but he also used Super Tuesday to win in three more states. It is a perfect example of how social networks can influence the campaign. The biggest surprise in the entire story is that Facebook is not only aware of it, but also bragging that is the case.

Fake News Are Only a Tiny Portion of Our Content

Mark Zuckerberg rejected the idea that fake news had the power of influencing the election.

“That is a crazy idea. Fake news takes a small part of the content on Facebook, and they couldn’t have affected the elections. People see over 99% of true content,” said Zuckerberg.

While that might be true, the statistics indicate that Google and Facebook are the two companies that get the most income from digital ads during the elections. The problem is that these platforms don’t seem to care about content accuracy as long as it brings them money.

Will Facebook Political Ad Policy Change or It Will Keep Allowing Lies?

We had a couple of relatively quiet years, but the fact that the elections will be held in November sparked the public’s interest in digital advertisements. People throughout the country are asking whether Facebook plans to change their ad policy.

According to what was published in February, Facebook wants to stay on its current course. That means they won’t prevent political campaigns to deliver messages that might not be entirely truthful. While other digital ad giants adjusted the ad policy to implement restrictions, Facebook doesn’t plan to do that. After all, it is a surefire way to remain number one when it comes to ad income. And they don’t mind that the company will be criticized because of that decision.

Should Facebook Even Be Allowed to Decide Which Content to Publish?

We have a unique situation at the moment because it seems like everyone is complaining about Facebook. It doesn’t fit anyone’s taste, which is why the company might have refused to implement any changes. The current situation is that they are independent in deciding which ads to publish, even if that means they will publish them all.

It is worth noting that nobody obliges social networks to follow specific rules because there are no regulations in this area. Instead of censoring the ads, Facebook now offers an option to users who want to see less political content in their feed. By ticking the desired option, a voter can pick to see fewer ads of a particular type.

You will find that Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, doesn’t think the same way as Zuckerberg. He revealed that Twitter would ban all political ads on this media, which is a brave decision. Unlike that bold approach, Google published that it will limit the advertisements up to some extent.

The reactions were mixed – the Democrats believe that the loss of reputation that Facebook suffered lately is because they are not fighting against fake news. On the other hand, the Trump campaign believes that Google and Twitter are contributing to voter suppression.

Social Networks Have Been the Victim of Political Ads, Too

Digital advertising is a powerful tool for political campaigns. Social media have a valuable weapon for influencing the voters in their hands. That is why it’s not surprising that they are occasional victims of those weapons, too. If there is anything that Biden and Trump agree on, it is that they will target social networks in their advertisements.

According to the details, the Trump campaign purchased Facebook ads that will trash Twitter that it works against him. Biden decided to run a FB advertising campaign to ask voters to sign a petition to delete fake news and inaccurate content.

Now, this tells us that both parties are aware of how social media can be a powerful weapon. That is why they don’t hesitate to use it in the campaign. At the same time, they use those very advertisements to criticize the policies of those networks. Are those double standards?

Facebook didn’t stop an ad from Biden’s campaign that talks about how this social media “threatens democracy.” Democrats want fake news of the site, but that is a whole different topic. The hands-off approach that FB uses might be smarter than the one Twitter applies.

Trump knows how to use this opportunity, which is why you will see Facebook ads about “Twitter trying to silence POTUS by interfering in his posts.”

Google, Facebook, and Twitter Will Fight Misinformation

During the 2016 elections, it seems that trolls from Russia used Facebook to call people to fake political events and post controversial messages and ads to the platform. The biggest problem seemed to be misinformation and for a good reason. It is not about the messages that the politicians send, but about facts and information – they should both be accurate.

The major players on the internet don’t hide that there are issues in this department. Furthermore, they already agreed on the actions to take to avoid the scenario that occurred four years ago. Are their actions enough to combat misinformation? And what can we expect from search engines we use every day?

Can Search Engines Influence How People Think and Vote?

According to Science, Google has the power of manipulating people using their search engine. As you browse the internet and use different search queries, you provide the company information about your preferences. The platform uses that information to tailor the content that they show to you. And even if they don’t do that, there is still the option to choose what will be placed first in Google search results.

The problem is that Google is so popular and widely-used that billions of users trust it. Many of them won’t go beyond the first few links provided. That gives the company plenty of room to manipulate the content. It is one of the reasons why the discussion about the filter bubble started in 2010.

Now, that manipulation could push you in the direction of buying a product from a particular brand. But what if it shapes how you plan to vote, and does that with millions of other voters? That means Google can shape the entire country by repositioning the results in its search engine results.

Did Google Influence the Elections in 2016?

An interesting study was done in California in 2014, and it focused on the elections in India held that year. The authors analyzed biased search results shown to undecided voters. They concluded that the content shown in search results affected at least 12% of those voters to decide for one of the prospective candidates.

Robert Epstein from the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology indicates that Google could change the results of US Election votes by approximately 2.5 million voters (about 2%). The predictions for the upcoming elections predict a narrow win from one of the candidates, which means that a single search engine has a theoretical chance of deciding the next POTUS.

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Suggestion.

It is impossible to prove that Google affects search results in any way because the company has the right to keep how the algorithms work to itself. That is what the intellectual property laws specify, so we can only discuss the potential “power of suggestion” implemented by Google in their search results.

However, it is known that the company uses this power under the excuse that it improves user experience. For example, if you start typing in Google’s search bar, you will find autofill suggestions made by this platform. But did you know that suggestions are different from one user to another?

The company uses the information collected about your browsing in the past to give you the most relevant search suggestions. If you type hot, you might see “hot weather” as an autofill suggestion, but another person could see “hot chocolate.”

Google defends itself by saying that they use the same algorithm regardless of the person. That way, they provide the results closest to the user preference without wanting to affect what they search. Even if that is true, that means autofill suggestions are biased. That is why it might be difficult to access unbiased news on the web and get to know different opinions.

How to Get Unbiased News on the Internet

We live in a world where news posts are everywhere, and they are readily available to anyone. It seems like a paradox, but that makes it more difficult than ever to reach unbiased content. Major search engines don’t hesitate to gather our private browsing info and abuse it to filter the content they show us. Is there a way to protect yourself and read objective news?

The answer lies in using private search engines like Privado. These platforms are a valuable asset because they always deliver unbiased content. On top of that, they are both free and secure, which means you can use them as much as you want.

Benefits and Steps to Using Private Search Engines

Here is why using a private search engine is how you will receive unbiased news on the internet:

  •         No tracking – a private search engine won’t track or collect any information about you. Thanks to that, there won’t be anything to use when filtering the content. That guarantees the results shown will be objective.
  •         No IP address memorizing – your IP address contains information about the device used when browsing and your location. That is another method of filtrating the content, which is why private search engines create an anonymous ID for every search.
  •         Encrypting search terms – you can’t underestimate the privacy factor. Encrypting search terms guarantees no one will see what you are searching for when online.

Did you know that using a private search engine is easy? Here are the quick steps to conduct a secure search:

  1.       Pick the desired secure search engine.
  2.       Head to the website and install the extension.
  3.       Enter the desired search terms and execute the action.
  4.       Browse unbiased results and content.

Final Thoughts

It is hard to control what happens on the internet, and news and other published items related to US elections might be the best example of that. Facebook, Google, and other major media players affect every area of our life, and it doesn’t come as strange that they can influence voters.

That is why accessing unbiased news on the web becomes a primary priority for every voter out there. The chance to read different content sources is the best way to challenge your mind and get to know various opinions. That is where private search engines come into play.  Make sure to use them to avoid biased news and get access to top-quality content from relevant sources. That applies to both the US election and any other sensitive topic out there.