By EVAN HALPER
March 24, 2019
The idea that Google is subtly pushing masses of voters to the left has the ring of conspiracy, and thus the work of Robert Epstein is warmly embraced by conservative lawmakers — as well as a president — convinced big tech is plotting against them.
Yet even some scholars who think the San Diego-based psychologist is wrong about the political impact of search engines — he believes bias built into Google’s processes could have cost Republicans three California congressional districts in the last election — have started paying attention to his detailed work on how voters respond to tens of thousands of search results.
At a moment when misinformation about search engines and social media bias is rampant, with both the left and the right amplifying unsupported claims, Epstein is asking the right questions, they say, about the unseen power of algorithms and how little most Americans understand about the way they work.
The saga of the persistent San Diego psychologist versus the tech giant is a long-running one, full of twists. As Big Data shapes our opinions in ways scholars are only beginning to comprehend, his work has increasingly caught attention.
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