Why Google Poses a Serious Threat to Democracy, and How to End That Threat

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Testimony by Robert Epstein, Ph.D. (re@aibrt.org)
Senior Research Psychologist, American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology Before the United States Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution Tuesday,
June 16, 2019, 2:30 p.m.

I am Dr. Robert Epstein, the proud father of five children, a resident of California, and Senior Research Psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology. I love America and democracy, and I am also not a conservative. I have been center/center-left my whole adult life. You’ll see in moment why this fact is relevant to my testimony.

I am here today for three reasons: to explain why Google presents a serious threat to democracy and human autonomy, to explain how passive monitoring systems can protect us both now and in the future from companies like Google, and to tell you how Congress can immediately end Google’s worldwide monopoly on search. My plan for ending that monopoly was published just yesterday (Monday, July 15, 2019) by Bloomberg Businessweek (Epstein, 2019d). I am attaching a copy of my article to my testimony and respectfully request that it be entered into the Congressional Record.

I have been a research psychologist for nearly 40 years and have also served in various editorial positions at Psychology Today magazine and Scientific American MIND. I received my Ph.D. at Harvard University in 1981 and have since published 15 books and more than 300 scientific and mainstream articles on artificial intelligence and other topics. Since 2012, some of my research and writings have focused on Google LLC, specifically on the company’s power to suppress content – the censorship problem, if you will – as well as on the massive surveillance the company conducts, and also on the company’s unprecedented ability to manipulate the thoughts and behavior of more than 2.5 billion people worldwide.

Data I’ve collected since 2016 show that Google displays content to the American public that is biased in favor on one political party (Epstein & Williams, 2019) – a party I happen to like, but that’s irrelevant. No private company should have either the right or the power to manipulate large populations without their knowledge.

I’ve published articles about my research on Google in both scientific publications and a wide array of mainstream news sources: in TIME magazine, U.S. News & World Report, USA Today, Dissent, The Hill, and Huffington Post, for example, but also in The Daily Caller and even in Russia’s Sputnik News.

I reach out to diverse different audiences because the threats posed by Google, and, to a lesser extent, Facebook, are so serious that I think everyone in the world needs to know about them. I put my own political leanings aside when I report my data and concerns because the problems these companies present eclipse personal politics. To put this another way, I love humanity, my country, and democracy more than I love any particular party or candidate. And democracy as originally conceived cannot survive Big Tech as currently empowered

If you were to examine the data I have been collecting over the past 6-and-a-half years, every one of you would put partisanship aside and collaborate to reign in the extraordinary power that Google and Facebook now wield with unabashed arrogance.

Here are five disturbing findings from my research, which adheres, I believe, to the highest possible scientific standards in all respects:

1. In 2016, biased search results generated by Google’s search algorithm likely impacted undecided voters in a way that gave at least 2.6 million votes to Hillary Clinton (whom I supported). I know this because I preserved more than 13,000 election-related searches conducted by a diverse group of Americans on Google, Bing, and Yahoo in the weeks leading up to the election, and Google search results – which dominate search in the U.S. and worldwide – were significantly biased in favor of Secretary Clinton in all 10 p

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