Google search algorithms can be ambiguous to the voter, but the people knowingly or unknowingly at the company influence us daily in what we see and search. With the highly 2016 election coming in a matter of months, the technology giant could also have a influence in driving more people to the polls.
The company said it will be providing a summary of state voting laws at the top of research results. It will also offer more in-depth information in search results when users look for information on "how to vote" according to the laws governed by your state. Google joined forces with Perkins Coie, an international law firm that represents startups and larger companies, to create a search tool that will help offer users a catalog of data to walk them through the voting process. Search terms like "voter registration" and "how to vote" will lead users to the data they need to become more involved in the process. People are highly engaged this election and searches in some areas of the country have increased up to 200 percent. Controversial topics like illegal immigration in contested states like Arizona have encouraged people to search the internet on the voting process. Other states like California, Maine, and New York have seen a spike in interest in people wanting to exercise their civil duties as well for this election cycle.
Search terms for voter registration increased to 190 percent after the Democratic and Republican convention compared to the last presidential election in 2012. Google estimated that 126 million people voted then, but there were 93 million who did not cast their vote in the last general election, according Tech News Today and Value Walk. Google's Project Lead Emily Moxley said that the reason for implementing this search tool is to help make the process more understandable and more digestible for people. "Different websites have bits and pieces of the information people need, and it's hard to tell if the information you're looking at is up to date. So we collected everything into one location, in terminology that's easy to grok [understand]." Google is looking to streamline the process offering guidelines for those also voting by mail. Voters who are absent just need to download ballot application and submit it before the November 1st. They want to make it easy for people who are disabled and convicts exercise their right to vote in the election.
Can Google sway an election to one side or another and which candidate will benefit from an uptick in voting? The service offered by Google is providing people with the information they need to enjoy their political freedoms and is a little different from "tilting" a contest. "What's more, it stands to give Americans greater faith in an institution that's critical to the healthy functioning of the republic," the Washington Post shared. There are a lot of people who don't vote, and this could help them navigate the waters better. However, people could be generally disenchanted with the American political system. "The last presidential election was in 2012, and the turnout was 53.6 percent, based on 129.1 million votes cast and an estimated voting-age population." Voter turnout dipped so low in 2012 that it fell under the 2008 level of 62.3 percent, which was low compared to the increase of the eight million new eligible voters.
We get that people are not voting here in the U.S., but will Google's latest project get people to cast their votes, and if so where will it end? Some authors believe that the company could rig the election, and working to increase votes could be one of them. Perhaps, it is a conspiracy theory, or there is validity to this idea? Politico did a study and reported in 2015 that Google's search algorithm could shift voting preferences of the undecided voters. This year, the election should be tight, and that makes people nervous and to believe there should be concern. "Given that many elections are won by small margins, this gives Google the power, right now, to flip upwards of 25 percent of the national elections worldwide. In the United States, half of our presidential elections have been won by margins under 7.6 percent, and the 2012 election was won by a margin of only 3.9 percent." Now, the question is, will an increase in voter registration and turnout influence or help elect Republican Donald Trump or Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton? Google is a powerful force and the most used search engine used in the world--one doesn't know who are operating the search levers behind the scenes, which gives pause.
But they are not the only company to use a platform to help drive more voters. Facebook pushed "get out the vote" in news feeds to boost voting numbers. There was controversy surrounding Facebook this year on their employees who suppressed conservative news stories. This infuriated many Republican supporters, and founder of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg apologized and invited representatives of the Republican Party and other conservatives to a meeting to reassure them there was no bias intended. In a time where many don't think for themselves, we need to be keenly aware during elections to not be swayed by Google or social media. However, we can take the information offered and filter it as needed. In this case with Google working to increase voter turnout, we can use the guidelines on the voting process and information on the two candidates as a tool.