I admit I am suspicious of the 2.6-10.4 M votes manipulated by Google number. Even to a person like me, who believes that Evan Thomas was approximately correct when he stated in 2000 that the media gave Democrats a 15% head start in elections, that seems to me a large number. But let's look at it a bit.
It does not represent "zero to one hundred" changes, of people who would absolutely have pulled a lever for Trump but were gradually turned to broken-glass Hillary voters. Those manipulative tactics would start with some low-hanging fruit, or people who were already Hillary supporters but weren't sure they were going to make the effort to go to the polls. A steady stream of group support implied to people using Google search results might increase the feeling that it was one's civic duty to vote for Ms. Clinton. Steering people toward things that were distasteful about her opponent would increase the feeling that "something just has to be done." Repeated over time, this could increase their anger. On the other side of the coin, steering people toward results that show HRC was either a brave, noble advocate for women and the oppressed, or that painted her as a victim unfairly maligned, might also steel the resolve of the half-committed. Still, the search results I seek are not often political, but matters of unrelated facts, such as medieval history or linguistics, or definitions of obscures words and phrases. How much influence can they have?
Or are they not so neutral? What if I am looking up to see if a certain story I remember about the Bush administration is true? I can wade through a few unsympathetic sources claiming it is untrue or giving an alternative explanation in the two lead-in sentences the search engine provides - HuffPo? Yeah, I'm not clicking that. Slate? Nope. Yet what if I have gone all the way through page two and haven't found the support I sought? Might I not just grow weary and sigh "Well, maybe that one was fake news then. Too bad." Hmm.
There is a double effect. Fanatics make up a greater percentage of people who will keep going to further pages, or attack the question from a different set of requests. That's bad optics for your side, when it's World News Daily carrying the story. Note: WND gets plenty of stories right. They just overinterpret too many things or jump the gun on them, making them not worth my time. Yet they are right sometimes. So Google driving people deeper not only discourages the mainstream, it encourages fanatics. Bonus.
I have been willing the credit media with massive amounts of influence because of it's long-term, unrelenting nature. 15% was not too high. It might be now, as conservative media has come on the scene, influencing another group of people in that long-term, unrelenting way. I was initially reluctant to credit Google with such influence with a simple "Go vote" reminder and shading a few search results. But Google, plus Twitter censoring, plus Facebook redirection gives a human being a sense of "what my culture is thinking," and we have covered before that we are sensitive to such things at a primal level, being worried about being excluded from food, jobs, mates, and friends if we are outside our culture's norms. We will risk exclusion for cause, but we don't like it. We prefer not to see it.
I have noted many times - it is one of the main themes of the blog - that social acceptance is a bigger driver for liberals than conservatives. It shows up in too many unrelated areas to be a mere accident. We are all somewhat affected - no one likes to be without friends - but the power and percentages are different. Liberals accept the conventional wisdom that the 80s were the Decade of Greed, or that white people from Arkansas are probably less intelligent than they are, even when it is incidental to their point, because pushing back against that takes energy, and worse, it entails risk.
I would like to see something in the way of numbers from Dr. Epstein, rather than this "it stands to reason" argument (including my own). Yet i can see a way forward with this after all.