Is the Bigger Threat to Our Elections Russia, or Google?

An e-mail obtained by Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson this week demonstrates a Google Executive’s use of official resources to increase Latino voter turnout and influence the 2016 Presidential election in Hillary Clinton’s favour. This “silent donation,” as the e-mail author Eliana Murillo describes it, parallels the biased efforts of Facebook and Twitter to silence and subjugate conservative users of the platform; it shows the powerful influence these companies have with regards to elections and the danger these companies can represent, especially in comparison to the rather limited influence of advertisements purchased by Russian malcontents.

Despite her efforts and intent, Marillo was dismayed to discover that only 71% of Latino voters voted for Hillary Clinton, 29% shy of the only logical choice she considered possible. She blames these Latinos for President Trump’s election in the e-mail, asserting that even with her assistance it was “not enough” to get her chosen candidate elected. In the e-mail, she states:

We worked very hard. Many people did. We pushed to get out the Latino vote with our features, our partners, and our voices. We kept our Google efforts non-partisan and followed our company’s protocols for the elections strategy. We emphasized our mission to give Latinos access to information so that they can make an informed decision at the polls, and we feel very grateful for all the support to do this important work. Latinos voted in record-breaking numbers, particularly with early votes. A large percentage of Latino voters in Florida were new voters who had become citizens just in time to vote. We saw high traffic for the search queries ‘votar,’ ‘como votar,’ and ‘donde voter,’ in key states like Florida and Nevada. We will be pulling in more info in the coming hours/days but so far we definitely know there was high traffic on search in Spanish. Without translating our tools the users wouldn’t have found the information they needed. Objectively speaking, our goal was met — we pushed and successfully launched the search features in Spanish, and we thank Lisa for her support in advocating  for this work. I sent Philipp a note yesterday to thank him because he and others voiced their support for this too, and we greatly appreciate it. Even Sundar gave the effort a shout out and a comment in Spanish, which was really special.

The four-page e-mail has since been seen and reviewed by other outlets, though the original e-mail has yet to be published publicly. The contents of that e-mail of which we are currently aware, however, indicate a distinct effort on the part of the Google executive and those with whom she coordinated to exercise their strength for a specific, partisan political purpose — even showing distrust over discussing her efforts publicly for fear that Latino voters which did not vote for Hillary Clinton would see it. And those with whom she coordinated are no small players within Google; “Philipp” likely refers to Philipp Schindler, a vice president and chief business officer within the company, “Lisa” refers to Lisa Gevelber, the vice president of global marketing, and “Sundar” is Sundar Pachai, the CEO which took over at Google in 2015.

Murillo confirms that this was no simple “get-out-the-vote” effort, disconnected from partisanship further along in the e-mail; she describes the concerted effort she undertook to specifically see her candidate elected:

We had our partners help spread the word about our features on social media, including YouTubers and influencers like Dulce Candy, Jorge Narvaez, Jessie y Joy, Barbara Bermudo, and Pamela Silva of Univision, Jackie Cruz aka La Flaca from Orange is the New Black, and more. We promoted our partner the Latino Community Foundation’s non-partisan #YoVoyaVotaryTu (I’m going to vote, are you?) campaign and leveraged our social media influencer friends’ reach to hit over 11M impressions with that hashtag. We hosted an event with over 200 people and a hangout with social media influencers about the power of the Latino vote and the new research Nielsen published about the Latino electorate. This reached 4.4M social media impressions and signaled to many that Google and our partners value the Latino community and our role in this election. We brought the same research to the LATISM conference, where people were beyond thrilled to see Google’s support and acknowledgment of the Latino community.

We also supported partners like Voto Latino to pay for rides to the polls in key states (silent donation). We even helped them create ad campaigns to promote the rides (with support from HOLA folks who rallied and volunteered their time to help). We supported Voto Latino to help them land an interview with Senator Meza of Arizona (key state for us) to talk about the election and how to use Google search to find information about how to vote. They were a strong partner, among many in this effort.

Ultimately, after all was said and done, the Latino community did come out to vote, and completely surprised us. We never anticipated that 29% of Latinos would vote for Trump. No one did. We saw headlines like this about early voter turn out and thought that this was finally the year that the ‘sleeping giant’ had awoken.

The e-mail is an open admission throughout of not only Google’s power and influence over election campaigns, but the intent to see their candidate win. Fulfilling the very fears expressed throughout the electoral season in 2016, Google has confirmed with the leak of this e-mail that their influence is not a matter to be taken lightly, especially with regards to politics.

In Julian Assange’s book, When Google Met Wikileaks, the famed publisher of confidential and classified information explains his very justified misgivings with Google’s close ties to the Council of Foreign Relations and other governmental bodies. Google was known to have directly intervened with scheduled maintenance at Twitter, to assist the 2009 Arab Spring, and Eric Schmidt himself has performed duties reserved for the State Department when surveying the wreckage of Baghdad and speaking to officials in North Korea. Google’s integration with government makes their partisanship and actions taken in the interests of that partisanship that much more frightening, as it represents a more real oligarchical circumvention of the will of the voters than we have seen in the United States since the 1940’s.

This fear is only intensified by Murillo’s unwillingness to be transparent in the event a voter who disagreed with her might speak out against her decisions:

What’s most difficult for us is we can’t even email the HOLA list to reach our community and discuss what this means for us because we know that apparently some may actually be Trump supporters. There is a thread right now among the core HOLA group where people are sharing how much they hurt, how much they need support right now, and that they are coordinating in different offices to meet up to just hold each other. One in a remote office said ‘If you guys do any sort of meetings, I’d love to join virtually. I think I’m currently the only Latinx in my office. It’s kinda hard.’ #understatement. Another said, ‘I’ve never cried after an election until last night.’ Same here.

If Google is influencing elections, and hiding their efforts to do so solely because some of the people on a mailing list might be opposed to her actions, it speaks very clearly to their intent. The sharing of this e-mail throughout the company, in the e-mail chain which was leaked to Fox News and Breitbart, further confirms the company’s thoughts on intervening with elections. The fact they were unsuccessful in tipping the scales is inconsequential at this point, with another election less than 60 days away; if they are so willing to attempt to change the results of an election just because they can, what is stopping them from doing it again this year?

The last two years have shown nearly no end of reports from the mainstream press attempting to paint Russia as a diabolical force acting to influence our elections, but Russians had only bought advertisements seen by, at most, 60,000 viewers — at least half of which would have been non-voters. To the contrary, Google’s search results and financial influence in California, Nevada, and Oregon is unequaled; if such a tiny advertising campaign undertaken by Russia can be considered electoral tampering and fraud, what then should we consider the actions taken by Google? Their influence dwarfs that of Russia, and their ability to define what information is seen and what remains invisible represents a threat to our democracy which Russia could only dream of accomplishing, according to the standards presented by the mainstream media.

And if you have any question in your mind as to whether or not those at Google would like to use their official resources to influence the elections again, let it be left with Eliana Murillo’s own closing words:

I’m in shock and it hurts more than I could have ever imagined, but trying to stay optimistic and keep my head high. Loss is a part of life, and I do think frustrations challenge us to work smarter and get creative. My partners have sent notes and are saying the same thing — time to keep working harder.

Time to keep working harder, indeed. Not to undertake partisan efforts, but to keep biased, corporatist groups like Google from thinking they have the right to undermine this nation for their interests.