Survey: Californians Short on Trust for Social Media Companies

62 percent of Bay Area residents say “the tech industry makes the wealthy even wealthier, but doesn’t really help the rest of California," according to a survey from Edelman.

by Levi Sumagaysay, The Mercury News / February 14, 2018
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(TNS) — Californians trust the tech industry more than any other — yet they think it needs to be regulated, and they blame social media for fake news, a new survey says.

The annual trust barometer by marketing consultancy firm Edelman shows that Golden State residents consider social media companies to be in a different category from Apple, Google, Microsoft and Samsung: 62 percent of Californians trust the tech industry, while only 37 percent trust social media companies.

In the Bay Area, home to Facebook and Twitter, only 35 percent of residents trust social media companies. It is the least trusted industry by residents of this region, according to Edelman’s survey.

Bay Area residents’ mixed feelings about tech are reflected in other numbers in the barometer: 62 percent of Bay Area residents say “the tech industry makes the wealthy even wealthier, but doesn’t really help the rest of California,” according to the survey.

In addition, 67 percent of Bay Area residents think tech needs more regulation. Bay Area residents think: Tech companies should be more financially liable for data breaches (89 percent); companies that move manufacturing overseas should be taxed (82 percent); companies that replace workers with machines should be taxed (66 percent); companies should reduce the number of skilled workers from abroad (66 percent); and that tech monopolies should be prevented (56 percent).

“In the battle to protect its license to innovate around the world, the industry must first deal with perception at home,” said Kristine Boyden, president of Edelman’s western region, in a statement.

The regulation question has been coming up more often lately, amid a backlash against tech over issues that include fake news, extremist content, sexual harassment, tax avoidance and a gender pay gap.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, whose annual letter with wife Melinda Gates was released Tuesday, is the latest to weigh in.

Tech companies “need to be careful that they’re not … advocating things that would prevent government from being able to, under appropriate review, perform the type of functions that we’ve come to count on,” Gates said in an interview with Axios.

Providing examples, Gates took shots at cryptocurrency — and Apple — citing companies “enthusiasm about making financial transactions anonymous and invisible, and their view that even a clear mass-murdering criminal’s communication should never be available to the government.” (A couple of years ago, Apple refused to help the FBI unlock the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters.)

Along the same line of thinking that tech should have a conscience, 79 percent of Californians surveyed say tech companies should speak up when policies could hurt their customers.

As for fake news and social media, 77 percent of Californians blame social media for misinformation, according to Edelman’s survey. More than three-fourths of those surveyed think social media political ads should be held to the same standards as those on TV, and support fining social media companies for fake news and illegal content on their sites. Most Californians also support requiring social media companies to review what’s posted on their platforms for accuracy.

The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer California Supplemental Survey, a follow-up to Edelman’s annual U.S. barometer, surveyed 1,502 general population California adults statewide, including 500 in the Bay Area and 500 in the L.A. area. The margin of error statewide is ±2.4 percent and ±4.4 percent in the Bay Area and the L.A. area. Edelman conducted online interviews Jan. 12 to Jan. 22.

©2018 The Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.