Discover what’s hidden behind the “techlash”?

Figure 1.1 "Social Media Marketing Flyer" by Visual Content is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Figure 1.1 "Social Media Marketing Flyer" by Visual Content is licensed under CC BY 2.0

What is the “Techlash”?

 In the era of big data, people cannot live without social networking and the internet. The technology companies that create these social platforms are rapidly becoming an integral part of people’s daily lives, and the data they generate has become more meaningful, and these technology companies are influencing society. Technology companies such as Facebook, Google, and Amazon quickly cornered the market in the early stages of the Internet’s development, and their influence spread globally. They use the benefits of technology to attract the public to rely on and feel good about them but ignore the socially harmful actions that tech companies do using monopolistic markets for commercial gain and power. These ignored issues exploded in 2018, when the term Techlash was proposed by The Economist. Techlash refers to tech companies violating the privacy of their users and using the data collected for commercial transactions. These unethical and unregulated practices have created public hostility and resistance to tech giants, which are affecting their public opinion environment (The Economist, 2018).

The problems and social impact behind Techlash

“Techlash” – how big tech is influencing your thinking | Tech Wash. (2018, May 11). [Video]. YouTube.
  1. Tech monopoly

Large technology companies use their leading technology to attract large audiences and market power to become industry giants, but they also use their position to crowd out smaller companies and set the rules. They are constantly innovating new businesses and acquiring and merging other platforms. For example, Alphabet is the main company of Google which includes Chrome, YouTube, and other platforms. Facebook acquired Instagram and WhatsApp and dominates traffic (Van, 2018). Google uses its excessive market power to eliminate potential or real competitors (Smyrnaios, 2019). Google has a large market share, so that when the public thinks of search engines, most of them think of Chrome. A lot of power is in the control of technology giants, and their platform system monopoly is not fair (Van, 2018). The well-established ecosystems of these platforms leave no space for companies that want to innovate or compete to start from scratch and change the habits that users have already formed.

This monopoly through technology also monopolizes people’s daily lives. When people cannot live without these ecosystems, the failure of these platforms can have a serious impact on their lives. For example, on October 4 Facebook experienced a five-hour power outage due to a configuration. This outage affected many aspects like a domino effect, which also made it impossible to find a replacement for the Facebook ecosystem. From the user’s perspective, it is not possible to communicate with friends or spread information. And the website cannot be logged in by using Facebook account. From a business perspective, the ads placed cannot be displayed and the reliance on Facebook for business has been affected. These reflective issues show the consequences of the monopoly of the technology giant.


  1. Violation of user privacy

Figure 1.2 “Five Data Privacy Principles from Mozilla (Put on a museum wall) 2014” by vintagedept is licensed under CC BY 2.0

One of the most criticized aspects of the Internet is the violation of privacy, the use of algorithms by companies to monitor and collect data from users. The currency of value in the online world is the number of users and data (Van, 2018). Technology platforms do not rely on the production of news to make money, but rather use user data to make huge profits. For example, Google uses the search engine’s Cardon algorithm to deliver ads based on user preferences (Smyrnaios, 2019). Algorithms increase the accuracy of merchant advertising and attract more advertisers. It is easy for users to buy what they want, but it also means that they live under constant surveillance of the Internet. It manipulates the user’s preferences.

On the other hand, users upload their photos and personal information on social media platforms, and others can find their accounts through data feeds. Such interpersonal algorithms obscure the privacy of personal information and are easily susceptible to malicious attacks or leakage of personal information.

In addition, the terms of the contract between the user and the platform are not equal. Platforms are managed by user agreements, which are very long contracts that define the relationship between the user and the platform (Van, 2018). The platform takes advantage of the psychology that users will not read all the terms and conditions to sign a contract in favor of the platform, which reflects the regulators and the public need to regulate the platform policy.


  1. Disrupting market competition

The platforms use free news and interactive technology to make the public rely on these media platforms to view news, which also reflects the limitations and singularity of news. The platforms take advantage of audience fragmentation, which makes most advertisers prefer digital media over traditional media. This also results in traditional media not having more commercial revenue to support or update their products and news (Vukanovic, 2018). The impact of digital media on traditional media has led to a vicious circle of economic and audience reduction for traditional media.

Unlike the accuracy of traditional media, these technology platforms spread news quickly, but the spread of fake news can also affect public opinion and society. Advertisers will place news on highly viewed pages. For example, in the 2016 U.S. election, fake news made a lot of money by taking advantage of rapid distribution and a large audience. This attractive content became bait, and the more traffic generated the greater profits (Braun & Eklund, 2019). This business model not only destroys the traditional media industry, but also destroys the accuracy and diversity of information received by users.


The role of government, civil society organizations and self-regulation of companies

 As the negative effects of the digital economy and public opinion develop, the “techlash” phenomenon may become more serious, not only affecting the entire technology industry, but also affecting people’s trust in technology giants. To prevent Techlash from spiraling out of control, people need to tackle the root of the problem. Not only must tech companies self-regulate, but governments and civil society organizations must also take more preventive measures.

Figure 1.3″Internet Law” by Visual Content is licensed under CC BY 2.0
  1. Self-regulation

Platforms know better how they need to regulate online content and achieve user satisfaction. But platforms can hardly monitor themselves for-profit reasons. Platforms use algorithms to vet the offensive speech of some people, and they use contracts tied to consumers to absolve them of liability (Van, 2018). Platform regulation needs to make the business model transparent and solve the needs of users to redeem the negative public opinion they are facing.


  1. Government

Governments must establish laws to guarantee innovation, openness, and a fair playing field in digital platform markets (Berners-Lee, 2020). The government has a responsibility to protect users with a free and secure public network. The government can regulate technology companies more strictly and set regulations through industry needs. But governments have too long a time frame to improve laws and cannot quickly solve every new problem that arises. And because of the global influence of technology giants, governments can only make rules for their own country’s laws. So, there are limits to government regulation.


  1. Civil society organizations

Citizens also need to contribute to freedom and privacy security on the Internet. Users need to let technology companies and governments develop with users at the core and stop leaving their private data unprotected (Berners-Lee, 2020). For example, the Australian competition & Consumer commission (ACCC), a regulatory agency in Australia, is responsible for regulating the market and ensuring consumer rights by focusing on the consumer. This way, in addition to the government and the technology companies themselves, there are third-party agencies that regulate them to protect the rights of users and healthy competition more fairly in the market. Social platforms are full of different voices, and people can use Hashtag or platform technology to come together to speak out and protect their rights and privacy.


Looking toward the future

Figure 1.4 “Online marketing secrets” by Internet marketing secrets is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

People cannot live without the Internet, but also because of the rapid development of the Internet and a series of violations of the business model of technology companies has produced “Techlash”. Because of the globalization of the Internet and the difficulty of regulation, governments, civil society organizations and technology companies themselves must work together to regulate and improve the negative effects with the users at the core.




Berners-Lee, Tim (2020) ‘30 years on, what’s next #fortheweb’, Available online at


Braun, J. A., & Eklund, J. L. (2019). Fake News, Real Money: Ad Tech Platforms, Profit-Driven Hoaxes, and the Business of Journalism. Digital Journalism, 7(1), 1–21.


Smyrnaios, N. (2019). Google as an Information Monopoly. Contemporary French and Francophone Studies, 23(4), 442–446.


The Economist. (2018, January 18). How to tame the tech titans.


“Techlash” – how big tech is influencing your thinking | Tech Wash. (2018, May 11). [Video]. YouTube.


Van, J. (2018). The Platform Society as a Contested Concept. In The Platform Society. Oxford University Press.


Vukanovic, Z. (2018). The Influence of Digital Convergence/Divergence on Digital Media Business Models. Entertainment Computing – ICEC 2018, 152–163.

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