INTERNET STUDIES

Since 2012, Dr. Epstein has been studying and writing about some of the most challenging issues facing the world in the Internet age:

On the topic of privacy, his initial research suggests that Internet users are divulging nearly 40 percent more personal information online than they would if knew more about how that information might be used. He and collaborator Ronald Robertson have found that the typical "Terms of Service" (TOS) warning has no impact on behavior and therefore is useless as a warning. Adding a requirement that people click to acknowledge the TOS message creates a deterrent effect; adding a strong, explicit warning to the TOS message increases the effectiveness of the deterrent.

Regarding elections, Epstein and Robertson have found in multiple studies that search rankings that favor a political candidate drive the votes of undecided voters toward that candidate, an effect they call SEME ("seem"), the Search Engine Manipulation Effect. As a result, Dr. Epstein has called for the regulation and monitoring of search engines. Without equal-time rules of the sort that protect political candidates in other media domains, he says, biased search rankings exercise undue influence over voter's opinions - influence that cannot be counteracted by individual candidates but that can easily determine who will win a close election.

Epstein and Robertson's landmark report about SEME, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in 2015, can be downloaded here. It has been downloaded more than 84,000 times and is ranked by PNAS to be in the top 1 percent of all reports they monitor in all the sciences.

Dr. Epstein's Politico essay, "How Google Could Rig the 2016 Election," can be downloaded here. Dr. Epstein's preview of his upcoming book, "The New Mind Control," published in Aeon magazine - which has been viewed more than 250,000 times - can be downloaded here.

To view Dr. Epstein talking about SEME on the Larry King Show, click here. To view a comedy sketch about SEME on the RT network, click here.

Dr. Epstein also recently discovered a simple yet powerful way that search suggestions can be used to shift opinions and votes, an effect he calls the Search Suggestion Effect (SSE). An initial report about his research on this topic can be viewed here.

In a series of articles in distinguished publications - "Google's Dance" (TIME), "Google's Gotcha" (U.S. News & World Report), "Google's Snoops" (Dissent), "The New Censorship" (U.S. News & World Report), and other essays - Dr. Epstein has also been critical of various aspects of the operations and business model of Google, Inc., which he says pose a serious threat to civil liberties.