Seton Motley beat me to the punch, but I want to expand on his excellent post. There is a 24×7 war in full force and effect over the hearts and minds of voters. Sites like this one and the Huffington Post are mostly geared toward like-minded people. What Robert Epstein has studied, and we should pay attention to, is the political playbook geared toward the undecided voter.
Seton quoted from this article, which is a commentary on Robert Epstein’s research. Politico also covered the research here, in a piece written by Epstein himself. If you run a small business, you already understand the value of this research.
Every once in awhile my wife and I are interested in eating out at a new restaurant. We go to Google and we research restaurants in our area. Most of them have reviews on Google, Yelp, etc. If that restaurant has a low rating, we simply do not risk it. If the restaurant has a high rating, we are far more likely to go and try it out. We are, in this instance, the undecided voter. We are looking at what should be a “neutral” venue for information.
It has come to my attention that some businesses offshore reviews, either positive ones for themselves, or negative ones for their competition. And it works. You can sometimes tell fake reviews, sometimes not. The same is true on Amazon, where product sales are impacted by reviews in many cases, except where bias is perceived.
What rarely gets attention is that organizations like Yelp have been accused of bias and extortion (please pardon the link to the Huffington Post- it is purely for illustration). Just as the MSM clearly has a strong bias which permeates news coverage, we are in danger of ignoring the existing bias present in organizations like Google who purport to be neutral when they are far from it. It has been well-documented here and elsewhere just how in bed Google is with the current administration.
Search engines have algorithms that determine how high up a search result becomes. The algorithm is not published, but if you follow the secret rules, you come out on top. Even if Google does not manipulate the results, anyone with whom they share their formula can become an instant number one. At the national scale, the process is as simple as paying people “walking around money” to view articles, vote on polls, link to sites, etc.
It works and the potential effect, given the prevalence of the use of digital media by our entire population, is staggering. It means the consulting class now has to arm itself with an arsenal of linkers, bloggers, SEO specialists and technologists whose sole function is to accentuate the positive and remove the negative. Threaten, sue, manipulate in the new digital frontier.
There are two steps which I think are necessary to address this, one short-term and one long-term. The short-term step is that conservatives have to increase and improve our technical resources, especially within campaigns. We have to allocate resources to SEO and search results and understand where we are fighting “votivation”, or digital walking around money. This includes in primaries where it may influence outcomes which benefit RINOs.
Long-term, Google is the MSNBC of the Internet now. If there were a Republican in office, maybe more like CNN. Either way, we need to support a competing search engine, perhaps more than one, that can undermine Google. As long as it has a sheer monopoly, it won’t shy away from picking winners and losers, of which they obviously hope we are the latter.