Bulletins

Trust in Big Tech is in free fall, according to a new survey

According to a new report by the Public Affairs Council and Morning Consult, public trust in the technology industry has declined steadily since 2018.

Trust in Big Tech is in free fall, according to a new survey

Trust in Big Tech has been declining since 2018.

Photo by Ussama Azam on Unsplash

Trust in the tech sector hit an all-time low this year, according to a new study by Public Affairs Council and Morning Consult. Once the most trusted sector in the survey, tech now ranks among the least trusted, with 32% of respondents considering it less trustworthy than other sectors. Only the pharmaceutical industry, health insurance and energy are considered less trustworthy than tech.


According to the survey, tech topped the trustworthiness list from 2012 to 2017. But in 2018, the year the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke, it fell to fourth. It ranked fifth in 2019 and 2020, and now holds sixth place in terms of trustworthiness.

The survey also found that the percentage of Americans who believe the technology industry is under-regulated has more than tripled in the last eight years to 36%.

This survey comes in the wake of yet another Facebook scandal, with the Wall Street Journal's reporting on the Facebook Files. As tech companies wield increasing levels of power and influence, and consistently erode public trust, the court of public opinion is showing more interest in holding them to account.

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The board's rollout was shoddy even by DHS Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas' own admission. From the outset, DHS revealed next to nothing about the board's goals or its authorities, leading to concerns that this new entity might be surveilling social media and deciding what does and doesn't constitute disinformation. Conservatives also quickly pounced on Jankowicz, accusing her of being a partisan hack. According to the Post, DHS forbid Jankowicz from saying anything publicly in her own defense.

In truth, the goal of the board, Mayorkas explained far too late, was to do the opposite of what it was being accused of. Throughout DHS, agencies are already working on ways to combat misinformation and disinformation. The purpose of the board was to coordinate those efforts and ensure that they weren't crossing lines with regard to free speech and privacy.

But the decision to do that in a public way rather than in a private audit drew undue scrutiny to the effort. As one source familiar with DHS' plans recently told Protocol, “Having a very large governance board and a really big, public rollout for it with a very well-known person in this space very publicly leading it, that probably drove their risk up a little more than it needed to."

In a statement, DHS spokesperson Angelo Fernandez said the board has been "grossly and intentionally mischaracterized," and confirmed that the Homeland Security Advisory Council is now leading a review of the board in hopes of answering two questions. "First, how can the Department most effectively and appropriately address disinformation that poses a threat to our country, while protecting free speech, civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy. Second, how can DHS achieve greater transparency across our disinformation-related work and increase trust with the public and other key stakeholders," Fernandez said.

The final recommendations are due within 75 days, during which time, the board's work will be paused.

Among the board's critics were not just the usual suspects in conservative circles, but also platform regulation scholars and legal experts who feared that the well had already been poisoned. Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos also got in on the act, with Bezos tweeting this week that the "newly created Disinformation Board should review" one of President Biden's tweets about taxing the wealthy to fix inflation.

This story has been updated to include comments from DHS.

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Bulletins