The latest crisis in the social media industry involving Facebook and Cambridge Analytica has pushed the concept of “techlash” to the front of the national discussion. Once seen as advocates of truth and innovation, technology giants are now being viewed as threats to privacy and the dissemination of truth. Now is the time for technology users and consumers to admit that these companies are not value-neutral. In order for the industry to continue to flourish, the trust of consumers must be central to the core values of each technology organization.
As the technology sector grew, a few distinct leaders in each category began to emerge. The dominance of a few select big-name companies led to less competition in each sector of the industry. Leaders such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon have become the faces of the internet itself. Complete user dependence on these companies makes it especially difficult for consumers to abandon these platforms. This consumer dependence gives these companies a bit of a license to mishandle data. It also means that when any of these companies have a misstep, consumers are more likely to blame the entire internet for the mistakes because these leaders are so synonymous with the world wide web in general. A few firms should not represent the technology market as a whole, but unfortunately, they do.
In the wake of the Facebook scandal, CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg conceded that they need to be open to government regulation. Zuckerberg has agreed to testify before Congress in an effort to prove transparency and gain back the trust of its users. This is a positive step and it is imperative that the other big tech firms follow in Facebook’s footsteps. In order to win back public trust, these leaders need to forge the path and play a large role in the necessary reform needed in the industry. It is time to bring back integrity and value-driven principals to the Silicon Valley and technology companies around the globe. The internet is a powerful tool that should be used to further society, not hinder it.