Techlash:The technological impact and social responsibility behind the pace of innovation

Techlash: The technological impact and social responsibility behind the pace of innovation


From Financial Times:(Year in a Word: Techlash | Financial Times)

Licensed CC BY 2.0


First of all, the concept of “techlash” first appeared in The Economist in 2018. This concept reflects the concerns and dissatisfaction of the government, politicians, and the public towards large technology companies. And in the same year, large social media companies also became the focus of a ‘techlash’ in America. (Thomas A. Hemphill 2019). The manifestation of techlash is not only the public’s aversion to technology monopoly but also illustrates active support for enacting relevant policies to restrain large technology companies.

Public concerns:


As is known to all, large technology companies occupy a dominant position in the market. Then, when formulating industry rules, large technology companies often propose rules that are beneficial to themselves, thereby further expanding their sphere of influence. Relying on various advantages to squeeze out other competitors, while monopolizing technology, it also monopolizes the market unilaterally. For instance, as a giant in social media, Facebook has users all over the world, and most people use Facebook as the main communication tool, which also proves that Facebook monopolizes the industry’s market to a large extent.

On October 6, 2021, Facebook failed for six hours due to system reasons. The scope of this negative impact is huge. This issue not only prevents users from using these social media platforms for necessary communication but also brings significant economic losses to advertisers who place ads on Facebook. Thus, this case confirms why the public’s first reaction to the practice of market monopoly is disgust and worry. And it also illustrates the potential hazards brought by the monopoly market.

2.Algorithm recommendation (security of user privacy) 

Algorithm recommendation is a common phenomenon in social media. It will refer to the user’s usage data and push in a range in combination with specific algorithms. The content pushed by algorithm recommendation is mostly the type loved or frequently concerned by users. And advertisers will also refer to the user’s search and browsing records to accurately deliver advertisements to customers with such needs. In this process, users’ use data in social media will be collected, so the security of users’ privacy is also a problem worthy of attention.

The Cambridge Analytica data scandal is an example worthy of vigilance. The company collected the personal data of millions of Facebook users without authorization and used it to assist the political activities of conservative candidates in the 2016 general election. This kind of abuse of Facebook data for political purposes seriously violates the privacy rights of Facebook users (Isaak, J., & Hanna, M. J. 2018). This incident also confirmed that users’ privacy security requires the joint supervision of multiple parties and the provision of stronger protection measures.

3.The filter bubble

The concept of the filter bubble was first proposed by Eil Pariser in 2011. This concept describes that when people use social media, the system will filter out content or topics that users dislike in a range based on the user’s preference data, including various opinions that violate the user’s values.

The advantage of the filter bubble is that it will accurately filter out the types that users hate, and only push the content that users are interested in. This approach will allow users to have a more pleasant experience when using social media through conditional screening of information. The disadvantage is that it makes users more passively receive information and thus loses the process of judgment and thinking, and the behavior of filtering information can not realize the diversification of information.

From the Economist
(The techlash against Amazon, Facebook and Google——and what they can do)


1.Technology company

Technology companies can use self-regulation as a solution. This is because self-regulation is more efficient than government regulation, and its execution speed is faster. Self-regulation requires technology companies to give priority to the social impact of this practice before putting technology into the market. This approach is also regarded as “corporate social responsibility” (Palmer 2018b). The technology company itself can clearly understand the problem, so it will be more targeted when formulating policies and plans, and can accurately solve the problem. Relying on this approach can provide a strong guarantee and eliminate public worries to the greatest extent.

In addition, self-regulation requires appropriate incentive mechanisms as rewards, which can substantially improve the execution and enthusiasm of technology companies for self-regulation. Since the main motivation of technology companies is to stabilize consumer sentiment and ensure their interests, on this basis, eliminate consumers’ worries, rather than focusing on public values and moral concepts. Therefore, the incentive mechanism will give technology companies a sense of mission to assume social responsibility through rewards, and will also provide a fair and just environmental factor for the implementation of self-regulation.


Participants in government supervision are composed of two parts: government policymakers and regulatory agencies. The main purpose is to solve policy issues such as privacy, public safety, and national security to implement the regulatory system (Palmer 2018b). Government supervision is fair and has a complete external supervision system. This means that when formulating rules, the government can implement them through legal means. Compared with other forms of supervision, government supervision has stronger executive power and more effective supervision methods.

Nevertheless, government supervision also has some shortcomings. The shortcoming of this approach is the slower execution speed. Since the formulation of industry rules and the implementation of specific regulatory programs need to refer to and integrate many regulations and regulations, as well as a long review process. This is doomed to take a lot of time for this process, and it has caused the government to implement supervision slowly and cannot keep up with the pace of technological innovation in time.

In addition, limitations are also a concern. The different legal systems of various countries have made it difficult for the industry rules and regulatory programs formulated by the government to be implemented across the border. Therefore, it has brought limitations to the process of government supervision, and overcoming regional limitations has also become one of the goals of government supervision.

For example, EU member states have improved this problem by introducing GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).

These regulations rely on the power of the government to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of users and achieve the purpose of cross-country joint supervision(Calder, A. 2020). This helps the government as a regulator to urge technology companies to assume their due social responsibilities and provides a strong guarantee for users’ privacy and security issues, and technology companies that violate the legitimate rights and interests of users will also be subject to administrative penalties and huge fines, which once again confirms the absolute implementation and impartiality of government supervision.

3.Civil society organization

Compared with government supervision, the authority of civil society organization supervision is less, but the coverage is larger. The supervision of civil society organizations has also realized the power of diversification in a real sense, which includes the common concern and supervision of people from all walks of life. The advantage of this method is that it gives citizens stronger participation, and in this process, it can increase citizens’ awareness of safeguarding their legal rights and interests, and allow more people to have a more intuitive understanding of the concept of “techlash”.

In terms of decision-making, civil society organizations do have more diverse and comprehensive advocacy, but they are still lacking in execution and specific implementation. This means that this form of supervision still needs to rely on the power of the government and technology companies to help implement the plan, and rely on methods such as laws or industry rules to implement supervision.


With the rapid development of science and technology in modern society, innovations driven by information technology have become an inevitable trend towards antipathy to modern technology. The emergence of “techlash” also represents a wider range of things. It is not only a negative reaction to a few large technology companies, but also the future of socially responsible technology organizations (Mitroff, I. I., & Storesund, R. 2020).



Atkinson, R. D., Brake, D., Castro, D., Cunliff, C., Kennedy, J., McLaughlin, M., & New, J. (2019). A policymaker’s guide to the “techlash”—what it is and why it’sa threat to growth and progress. Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

Calder, A. (2020). EU GDPR – an International Guide to Compliance. IT Governance Ltd.

Facebook: Mark Zuckerberg apologizes for six-hour outage.(2021).

Hemphill, T. A. (2019). “Techlash”, responsible innovation, and the self-regulatory organization. Journal of Responsible Innovation, 6(2), 240–247.

Isaak, J., & Hanna, M. J. (2018). User Data Privacy: Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, and Privacy Protection. Computer (Long Beach, Calif.), 51(8), 56–59.

Mitroff, I. I., & Storesund, R. (2020). Techlash The Future of the Socially Responsible Tech Organization (1st ed. 2020.). Springer International Publishing.