EPSTEIN: Google’s Latest Whistleblower Is Hard To Ignore

July 30th, 2019
Google Headquarters with bikes on foreground in Mountain View, California, on December 29, 2016. Shutterstock image via Uladzik Kryhin

I’m not a huge fan of Project Veritas, a nonprofit organization that promises to expose misconduct in our society, for the simple reason that it leans far to the right. Justice is supposed to be blind; surely veritas should stand as upright as a Marine at attention. How can it be that whistleblowers only rat out liberals?

That said, no matter what your political inclinations, Veritas’ latest video, released on July 24, is revelatory. This time, no voices have been changed, no faces have been obscured, and the editing is minimal. This time, we even have a name: Greg Coppola, who has been a senior software engineer at Google since 2014 (although he has already been put on administrative leave for spilling the beans).

Coppola is articulate and sincere, and he earned a PhD in computer science from Scotland’s famous University of Edinburgh. In short, this man reeks of credibility, and he’s looking us straight in the eye.

His message? That it’s “ridiculous” to say there’s no political bias at Google. “I think everyone who supports anything other than the Democrats,” says Coppola, “anyone who’s pro-Trump or in any way deviates from what CNN and The New York Times are pushing, notices how bad it is.” (RELATED: Trump Delivers The Google-Facebook Reckoning That Obama Refused)

As the 2016 election heated up, “the angle that the Democrats and the media took was that anyone who liked Donald Trump was a racist … And that got picked up everywhere. I mean, every tech company, everybody in New York, everybody in the field of computer science basically believed that.”

 

And those beliefs, Coppola says, got expressed in algorithms, over which Google employees have complete control. “They don’t write themselves. We write them to do what we want them to do.”

He expresses specific concerns about possible bias in Google search results and newsfeeds, as well as about the “overall lack of transparency” in Google products. He even comes a hair’s breath away from accusing his bosses of lying to Congress when they say Google’s content is not politically biased. “I’m just so sure that’s not true,” he says, while making it clear that he has great respect for Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO.

In December 2018, pressed by House Republicans on this issue, Pichai said, “I’m confident we don’t approach our work with any political bias” — a carefully worded statement, to be sure — the kind a protective lawyer might craft.

Previous leaks reported by numerous publications could all be explained away one way or another. But not this time. Coppola is the real deal — a man who understands algorithms and who clearly loves his job but who has become increasingly concerned about one of the most important issues of our time, namely that in order for us “to have a democracy going forward” (Coppola’s words), Big Tech companies must be politically neutral, and Google is not.

When I testified before Congress on July 16, I reported some disturbing numbers that flow from the scientific research and monitoring projects I’ve been conducting in recent years.

I reported that bias in Google search results likely shifted at least 2.6 million votes to Hillary Clinton in 2016 with no one knowing and without leaving a paper trail; that Google’s “Go Vote” reminder on Election Day in 2018 gave Democrats at least 800,000 more votes than it gave Republicans; that bias in Google search results may have shifted upwards of 78.2 million votes (spread across hundreds of state and regional races) to Democrats in the 2018 election; and that if Big Tech companies all favor the same presidential candidate in 2020, they could conceivably shift 15 million votes to that candidate — again, with no one knowing and without leaving a paper trail.

If numbers like this make you wonder whether next year’s election will be fair, listen to Google’s latest whistleblower. Then worry.

Robert Epstein (@DrREpstein) is senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology and a former editor in chief of “Psychology Today.” He holds a PhD in psychology from Harvard University. He is the author of 15 books and more than 300 articles, and is working on a book called “How Google and Facebook Ate Your Brain, and How You Can Get a New One.”

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The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

Robert Epstein

Senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology