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Mind control has been practiced for eons. Even before that, other species did it. We know that for they still do. But there is a new dimension, or rather an avenue by which to achieve it: The search engine. Neither Google nor Yahoo are suspected of such misbehavior, but as Evan Leatherwood points out in the 9 May 2013 issue of The Nation , it could happen. What is scary about the research we have done is that each of us has that exact propensity for having our minds controlled by others, or our controlling theirs. It has happened before. Radio, TV, and now Search Engines all have the potential for mind control. Although Eric Schmidt, Serge Brin, and Larry Page of Google recognize the possibility that Google has such power even though they are apparently not attempting to actually do so, they have nevertheless acknowledged in the past that they can.

Others, notably Robert Epstein, a research psychologist, Michael Fischer of Yale, and Frank Pasquale of Seton Hall believe search engines can sway public opinion, and alter election results to the Left or Right! Each of these personages comes from a different quarter.

The danger is especially acute in our times where the Supreme Court is using the First Amendment to deregulate business. They can and likely would take the position that since corporations are people and have the right to support any candidate of their choice, then the search engines have the right to channel and limit information however they so choose. The social consequences could indeed be extreme. Our only hope is to vote for the political party that could and would remove the present bias against humanity in directions taken by the court. What to do? Regulation can and will work. In fact there are precedents:
  • Phone books were required to list all businesses, even those who offered cash not to be listed. This early recognition of the misuse of moneyed interests was most commendable. But what politician is commendable today?
  • Cable companies have been required to feed channels to areas where they were the only providers capable of such feeds. Customers rarely knew it, but the regulators were ensuring they had access to all the information available, not just the cable company’s preferences.

A second approach should also be pursued: Create a public option in search engines modeled legally after those that already exist in radio,(NPR), and TV (Corporation for Public Broadcasting). Both are very popular and considered the most reliable of sources in their respective media. Call it, or whatever. Its mission would be simple, all the news, all the sources, and all the events good and/or bad. The operative policy would be: This is the news, or information, and these are the various interpretations.

For motivation to preserve even-handedness on the Internet one might recall how American soldiers were brain-washed during the Korean War or ask ourselves why Abu Ghraib happened at its most fundamental, human level. How did our society create such animals?

In that connection, see: Milgram, Zimbardo, and Altemeyer.

Go to the Nation article for their original story we have paraphrased here.


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