Commentary

The 'Techlash' Is Only Getting Worse

Facebook and other mobile giants are failing to quell consumer concerns over everything from privacy to the spread of misinformation to the widening of cultural divisions.

That’s according to a new Knight Foundation and Gallup study, which explored what is now commonly referred to as the “techlash.”

For starters, most Americans (60%) now believe major Web companies do more to divide the country than to unite it, while only 11% believe the reverse to be true.

Even worse, nearly half of Americans now believe that these companies are creating more problems than they are solving, while only 15% think the opposite is true.

Nationwide, nearly half of those surveyed say these companies allow powerful interests to control society, while only one in five believe they give people the power to change society.

For researchers at the Knight Foundation and Gallup, the change in perception is startling.

“Just a few years ago, Americans were overwhelmingly optimistic about the power of new technologies to foster an informed and engaged society,” they write in the new report.

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Nearly half of American are also convinced tech companies contribute to making people misinformed about the news, while about 20% believe the opposite is true.

Not to be taken lightly, nearly three in four now say they are very concerned about the spread of misinformation on the Web.

Despite a partisan gap, majorities of both Democrats (84%) and Republicans (65%) say they are very concerned about this issue.

Additionally, nearly seven in 10 Americans say they are very concerned about the privacy of personal data stored by tech companies, while 56% say they are very concerned about hate speech and other abusive or threatening language online.

For their findings, the researchers relied on responses from 1,628 Gallup panel members, all of whom were U.S. adults over the age of 18 years old.

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