New Study Shows Bay Area Residents Increasingly Distrust Tech Companies

In conservative circles, the pitchforks have been out for tech since at least the 2016 election season, with far-right media organizations like Breitbart and Project Veritas accusing the industry and its leaders of silencing Republican voices, advocating for open borders, and bankrolling Democratic campaigns. And yet, a new survey suggests that the tech backlash festering on the far-right fringes has also escalated on the industry’s largely liberal home turf.

According to Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer survey of California, there has been a steep incline in the number of Californians and Bay Area residents calling for stricter regulation of the tech industry over the last year. While tech is still the most trusted industry in the state and around the globe, there is a growing feeling in California and the Bay Area that the tremendous success these companies have had is not helping the average citizen. The outlook is especially grim for social media companies, which Bay Area respondents viewed as the most untrustworthy industry of all, faring even worse than often vilified sectors like big pharma, telecommunications, and financial services.

“This idea in political campaigns that all politics is local couldn’t be any more relevant for the tech industry right now,” says Stacey Zolt Hara, managing director corporate and public affairs at Edelman Bay Area.

Whereas 62 percent of Californians surveyed expressed trust in tech, that figure dropped to just 37 percent when it comes to social media companies. In the Bay Area, it was only 35 percent. That disparity between tech and social media has a lot to do with more than three-quarters of respondents blaming social media companies for the spread of fake news.

These results also run counter to surveys taken last fall showing the majority of Americans still view social media giants like Facebook favorably. Since that time, though, Facebook, Twitter, and Google have all walked Congress through the gory details of how misinformation agents used and abused their platforms during the election. Edelman conducted its survey in January.

As tech companies work to fend off regulation in Washington, they’re unlikely to find many allies locally. More than two-thirds of Californians say the industry is under-regulated, a six point increase from the year before. Specifically, a whopping 87 percent of respondents, both Republican and Democrat, say tech companies ought to be financially liable for data breaches. That’s about the same as the number of people who said political ads on social media should be held to the same transparency and disclosure standards

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