A new study by BuzzFeed News and Lucid interviewed technicians about their attitudes towards the media. The results show deep skepticism about the press and concerns about the role of identity politics in coverage.
Ben Kothe / BuzzFeed News; Getty Images
It's a a few years in the media for the world's biggest tech companies. One by one, many of the industry's most prominent companies and their leaders have been subjected to unprecedented scrutiny by the press: excessive misinformation in the 2016 elections, hate speech and targeted harassment, treatment of workers discriminatory advertising practices, on the propagation of conspiracy theories, on sexual misconduct, on commercial links with the repressive Chinese government and on the perception of political bias within the companies themselves.
Sustained critical coverage of Silicon Valley is both a natural consequence of the dominant and growing role of these powerful societies in American life and a correction of what many observers regard as years of insufficiently rigorous reporting on how their products and practices reshape contemporary society.
The new place of technology under the microscope of media has aroused the discontent among technical leaders, both public and private, that the press has over-corrected, going too far in its coverage antagonistic to the sector, blaming it for problems it did not create, and ignoring its successes
To better understand how Silicon Valley understands the evolution of its press relations, BuzzFeed News has conducted the first ever survey of the attitude of technology workers towards the media. Survey of 1,000 professionals in a wide range of companies with 500 to more than 10,000 employees, reveals a very skeptical media sector and concerned about the role identity policies play in the coverage of technology by the press.
Indeed, more than half (51%) of technology industry professionals are "somewhat in agreement" or "strongly agree" with the statement that " President Trump is right to say that the media is producing false information. " Another survey conducted by BuzzFeed News, on a thousand Americans representing the national population, found that only 42% were in agreement or rather in agreement with this statement. *
This discovery puts in the new context Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk's high-profile desire create a site for monitoring the credibility of journalists – a campaign that many have described as cruel eccentric but that seems to result from a dominant sentiment in the industry, which seems to be stronger than in the entire country. Older employees (over 55), employees of large technology firms, and employees of firms with revenues greater than $ 1 billion were more likely to have a negative opinion of the media than those who did not. young employees (18-49 years old), small business employees and employees. businesses with less than $ 1 billion in revenue. In addition, women in the technology sector are less likely to have a positive opinion of the media than their male counterparts.
The mistrust of technology workers towards the press seems to come from several sources, one of which is the perception of identity bias in the coverage of technology companies by the media.
Nearly 4 out of 38 (38%) and almost half (45%) of men surveyed believe that "the media has become too feminist" (a separate study conducted by BuzzFeed News * revealed that In recent years, dozens of reports have been devoted to the relative lack of women working in the sector – especially in technical jobs – and the difficulties faced by women working in technology.
Similarly, over one-third (34%) of survey respondents and more than 4 in 10 men (41%) feel that the media is unfair to white men. Last year, former Google engineer James Damore sued his former employer, alleging an effort by the company to increase the number of underrepresented women and racial minorities who discriminated against conservatives of the white race.
Another source of skepticism among technology workers about the media stems from the perception that in terms of coverage of their sector, members of the press often do not know what they are talking about. Only 50% of the technology industry professionals surveyed believe that journalists are familiar with the companies they report, and only 43% think the media understands the technology very well.
(The survey asked respondents to select outlets that they felt covered the most equitably, with TechCrunch, CNN, and Wired leading the way with 12%, 11%, and 11% of respondents, respectively. Fox News, CNN and Fox Business News are the most unequal media in their coverage of the technology sector, with 17%, 13% and 8%, respectively. BuzzFeed News was next at 5%.)
Much of the recent critical reports on high-tech companies have been made possible by corporate leaks. This topic sharply divided survey respondents. Fifty-two percent of respondents were "somewhat in agreement" or "strongly agree" with the fact that employees of technology companies "should speak freely with the media"; at the same time, 49% "somewhat agree" or "strongly agree" that employees of technology companies "should not share information with the media". (The statements were presented to respondents as two separate questions, which is why they total a little more than 100%.)
A question about when technicians might believe such leaks are justified came in the form of a question about China. Fewer than one-third (31%) of technology workers are "somewhat in agreement" or "strongly agree" that US-based technology companies should operate in China. Dragonfly, Google's secret initiative to set up a censored search engine for the Chinese market, stalled after its revelation by Intercept provoked internal complaints. At the same time, 59% of technology workers "mostly agree" or "strongly agree" that "technology companies should work with the US government on military projects," another a source of recent controversy in the industry, which was also stifled when reports revealed Google's reputation. Project Maven, a UAV imaging contract for AI with the Pentagon, which he did not renew afterwards. (Only 38% of American consumers think the same thing.)
In addition to the questions on the attitude of technology workers towards the media, the survey also asked the subjects to give their opinion on the main companies in the sector. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the company that has been facing the sharpest criticism of the press over the last two years, Facebook, has also been judged in the most negative way by technology professionals. If 80% of technology workers think that the industry has had a positive impact on society, only 46% of them think that Facebook has done it and 32% of them enter they think that Facebook has had a negative impact on society – the most important of all listed companies.
At the same time, respondents were asked to select words or phrases that apply to various technology companies. The vast majority of responses were positive – for example, Google was most often described as "trustworthy", "innovative", "leader", "stable" and "respectable".
Of the companies listed, only Facebook's top five descriptors were all negative. They were "Controversial", "Secret", "Exploitative", "Arrogant" and "Frustrating". ●
Graphics of Ben Kothe / BuzzFeed News; Getty Images
The BuzzFeed News and Lucid Tech Industry Perceptions study was conducted between December 27, 2018 and January 10, 2019 and interviewed 1,000 US representatives of a sample of technology professionals aged 18 to 64 years old. The results presented in this article are based on responses from technology professionals working more than 30 hours per week and employed by a technology company employing more than 500 people. For comparison purposes, a probability sample of this size has an estimated margin of error (which measures the sampling variability) of +/- 3%. Click here to view the detailed data tables.
* Consumer sentiment survey (via Pollfish, n = 1,000, US Census representative 18-64)