Techlash is defined as the negative feeling by a group of individuals towards modern technology and the practices of large tech organizations. Techlash shows a dislike for technological innovations and development and for policies implemented to support it. There has been an increase in the hostility towards tech giants, and this negative \feeling can be felt across the entire technology industry. Techlash was first created by “The Economist,” describing the newfound occurrence. This tech phenomenon is mostly directly to tech giants found in Silicon Valley. In simple terms, individuals are done with the period of trusting the giant five tech companies: Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft (Heaven, 2018). Techlash is not only being felt by consumers who are completely losing their trust in these tech companies but by the governments who hate the increasing power and authority the tech giants have. The internet has significantly altered how people access information, understand the world and connecting with families and loved ones. Even so, there are downsides that online technology has brought rising significant public concerns. This paper aims to discuss the public concerns behind the techlash and to what level the government, technology companies, and civil society organizations can address these public concerns.
Public Concerns regarding Techlash
The public concerns about tech giants are significantly deepening. According to Knight Foundation and Gallup, the number of individuals who supported technology innovations in America in 2015 decreased from 60% to 43%. This further declined in 2019, with reports showing that those who view these companies positively declining to 30% (Knightfoundation.org. 2020). Below are the reasons that have contributed to the public concerns on techlash.
Democracy and Society
Technology has managed to connect and providing them with fast connections to information, and tech organizations play a very significant role in the everyday lives of Americans. However, opinions on the internet and technology industry have significantly decreased in the past five years. In America, most citizens are hostile to the role of large internet firms. 60% of Americans believe that the tech giants have divided the society; 48% think that internet companies allow powerful interests to monopolize society. 47% say that these companies establish more problems than they solve, and 52% indicate that the internet companies increase unpopular views’ popularity to excessive levels (Knightfoundation.org. 2020). When it comes to the public concerns on the role of the internet and tech companies on democracy, the opinions are evenly distributed. Despite the even division of opinions, the internet provides visibility to unpopular opinions on a political view where Democrats are more damaging than Republicans. The provision of visibility to unpopular viewpoints can control the views of society regarding a matter.
Misinformation and Privacy
Most individuals using the internet have a common concern when it comes to privacy and misinformation. A high percentage of individuals are often worried about misinformation spread on the internet, and in America, this percentage is at 74%. Another 68% say that they are not comfortable with the privacy of their data online. The concern of misinformation and privacy continues to rise and increase the techlash of technology organizations. A poll conducted by Gallup in 2018 found that 43% of American Facebook customers were very concerned that the tech giant was invading their privacy. This number had increased rapidly from 2011, at 30% (King, 2019). Fake news spread through social media, and the internet reaches billions of people across the globe. Due to the increased platforms on how individuals can access news, it isn’t easy to realize if what one is reading is accurate or not. Misinformation becomes a massive issue as the internet can impact public view and undermine democratic processes.
When individuals want to know or find out about something, the first thing that comes to mind is, do a quick search on Google. There are implications of one search engine dictating what people watch, listen to, and read. Getting used to something leads to people forgetting that the online platforms are not public forums but businesses, which now have control and monopoly of the decisions people make. A few large corporations are controlling the business of search engines, online shopping, and social media, increasing the techlash on these companies from the public.
This is another public concern that has caused increased techlash on technology giants. Individuals believe that the products and services offered by these companies have adverse impacts on the users’ mental health. Susceptible young individuals on the internet have a high chance of exposure to hate speech, cyberbullying, and extremist content (King, 2019).
How Public Concerns can be addressed by the Government, Civil Society Organisations and Tech Companies
The government can address public concerns by regulating tech giants limiting the control that these companies have rapidly gained. Tech giants have gained much influence over the economy and cultures. Due to this, the government and lawmakers need to be actively involved in how these organizations deal with cyberbullying and privacy issues, which have become a substantial public concern resulting in techlash. According to Bill Gate, the Microsoft co-founder, technology has become vital that the government needs to figure out what it means for democracy and societal culture. Data privacy is one area that the government needs to add regulations (Huddlestone, 2019). Numerous individuals have experienced cybercrimes with online data since criminals can readily get people’s personal information from these online platforms.
Civil society organizations (CSO) can address the public concerns on tech giants by acting as pressure groups to lobby governments to develop tech policies and regulations that do not put users into danger and exposing them to cybercrimes. Since governments cannot control how nations choose to deal with the technical regulations and policies, CSOs can ensure that the tech laws implemented by each government do not have adverse effects on the users concerning privacy, misinformation, democracy, and mental health. This helps users trust that their personal data is safe and they are not at risk of being exposed to online crimes that mainly happen on social media platforms controlled by tech giants (MacCarthy, 2020).
Since tech companies are responsible for all settings regarding their platforms, they can address public concerns over misinformation, privacy, monopoly, and mental health by ensuring that the safety of their users is their number one priority. Managing what users post and what personal data is needed is one way that the safety of users can be increased. For instance, bullying happens on online social media platforms because the management is not strict enough on what posts and information are relevant and those that are irrelevant (Huddlestone, 2019). The content posted on online platforms needs to be scrutinized to ensure that it has no negative impact on users and that the news posted is correct and not posted to influence public opinions biased against an individual, a party, or a specific ethnic group or race.
Techlash has seen consumers of large tech giants lose their trust in something they completely believed in and trusted. Technological innovation brought about advantages that users enjoyed. Connecting with loved ones and information was made more accessible and faster. However, the downside of internet and technology companies has overweighed their benefits, with most consumers showing a decline in trust levels of tech giants. With the public concerns over tech giants and internet companies, the government and tech companies need to ensure that the safety of an individual is the first thing on their list. Reducing and mitigating techlash among internet and tech users can only be solved by companies in the industry and the government. It is improbable that people will abandon their smartphones and uninstall internet and tech apps. Still, technology giants have the obligation of making things right and regaining the trust of their users. The big five tech giants have a role in maintaining the trust of their users and implement safety measures ensuring that the information posted on these platforms is accurate.