Don't be evil! Google’s soft power to regime change

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"Don't be evil" was Google's motto from 2000 to 2015 (Image Wikimedia Commons)

Google’s recent systematic purge of websites of non “well-established” content is just one sign of its intent to manipulate global opinions.

Although secrecy has allowed only a few glimpses on the search giant’s true objectives and alliance, those glimpses outline a surprisingly clear picture of Google’s role in a U.S. dominated global world order.


Historical perspective

In the Cold War era, about half of the U.S. orchestrated regime change attempts succeeded to overthrow the legitimate government of the target country and replace it with a U.S. friendly dictatorship. The ostensible purpose of these adventures was to halt the spread of communism and curtail the influence of the Soviet Union. 

Surprisingly, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, U.S. regime change efforts did not stop. They increased, albeit with a striking difference. Since 1991, every U.S. regime change attempt has failed, leading to the destruction of the target country and the rise of terrorism.

At the core of these failures was the inability of the CIA and the U.S. military to compensate for the lack of local popular support for the designated opposition forces in the target country. This is clearly demonstrated in present day Syria, where the mainstream propaganda machine, while reasonably successful in the manipulation of opinions in the West, entirely failed to convince the Syrians that the U.S. supported Islamists and foreign mercenaries were fighting for a democratic Syria. Arguably, this failure has been the true driving force behind the increasing popularity of Assad, not any greatness on his part.

Despite the repeated failures, the resurrection of the “leader of the free world” Cold War rhetoric suggests that any legitimate government may find themselves under the “Sword of Damocles” if their policies are not aligned with U.S. interests.


In the shadow of failures

In the early 1990s, the CIA and the NSA were acutely aware of the growing body of evidences pointing to the possibility of manipulating people’s opinions by controlling their access to information. As the internet and the World Wide Web were rapidly becoming a primary source of information in most part of the world, the control over “who can access what and when” became a key issue. An internet search engine was a particularly attractive option because – unlike military force – it was not likely to invoke resistance in the target country.

It is not surprising and certainly not sheer coincidence, that the research and development of the PageRank algorithm, which later became the key component of Google Search (GS), was indirectly funded by the NSA. In addition, the venture capital firm, which provided most of the capital to establish Google Inc, was created and controlled by the CIA. It is also well documented that Google continued to maintain a cosy relationship with the CIA.

With a meteoric rise to dominance, it is unquestionable that GS has become potentially the most powerful influence on public opinion in the world. But realistically, can such a funky, friendly, humble and claimed to be neutral tool become a vehicle of interference with the political system in any country?

The true power of a search engine

This question received a profound answer in a 2010 interview with Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google at the time, who said that people do not use GS merely to search for information — they seek Google “to tell them what they should be doing next”. His observation was particularly significant because, since 2001, Schmidt likely knew more about the operation of Google, than its founders.

The truth in Schmidt’s statement was confirmed in a 2015 research done by Dr Robert Epstein, which demonstrated how bias in an internet search ranking can influence peoples’ opinions in an election scenario. He found that it may shift the preferences of 20 to 80 per cent of the undecided voters and consequently change the overall election results by 25 per cent without the voters ever noticing the bias. His research was repeated in India and the UK with similar results.


2016 U.S. election meddling?

Amid the 2016 U.S. election, another research conducted by Dr Epstein concluded that Google had been manipulating GS search suggestions in favor of Hillary Clinton. Google denied the accusations, but their explanation fell short of explaining – let alone refuting – many of the findings in the research. The Podesta emails, which subsequently confirmed the association between the Clinton campaign and Eric Schmidt, were a further stab to the credibility of Google’s defence. Of course, in response to the revelations, GS search suggestions changed back immediately, they became free from the Clinton bias, Clinton lost, the rest is history.

It might be reasonably expected that after such revelations went viral, Google may become the subject of a thorough investigation by the FBI. However, nothing has happened. Dr Epstein’s research fell entirely under the radar of the mainstream media and the FBI did nothing.

Ironically, ever since the Clinton defeat, GS search results and the mainstream media have been saturated with the “Russians meddled with the election” allegations, which have so far not been proven.


A new era of regime change

Arguably, the most elegant way of a regime change is to manipulate the election in the target country. Google can do this with impunity because – except for Russia and China – GS has an unchallenged global dominance on people’s access to information.

There appears absolutely nothing to prevent Google from using this power against the leadership of a country which intends to introduce policies against Google’s financial interests. Google’s CIA connections suggest they may also do this on behalf of the political interests of the U.S. "deep state".

For countries without democratic elections, or whose leaderships enjoy overwhelming popularity, various forms of military influence may still be on the agenda. However, it appears extremely likely that GS would play a crucial role in the preparation and ongoing support of such adventure as well.

The recent increase of U.S. active military presence at nearly every point of the globe with the resulting fear of regime change in those countries which do not subscribe to an American world order have already created an arms race. However, it is unlikely that these countries will ever be safe unless they free themselves from Google’s dominance.


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License

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Don't be evil! Google’s soft power to regime change

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