May 25, 2022 - Technology

Tech firms' big trust gap

Technology company reputation, by type
Data: The Harris Poll; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

As the tech industry's reputation continues to sink, hardware-producing companies are faring much better than social media firms, according to data from this year's Axios Harris Poll 100.

Why it matters: One group is seen as making things of value for society, while the other makes social trouble.

  • The Axios Harris Poll 100 is an annual survey to gauge the reputations of the most visible brands in the country.

Details: Over the past few years, social tech companies like Facebook/Meta, Twitter and TikTok have seen their reputations deteriorate as the public digested waves of controversy over data privacy, misinformation, content moderation and free speech.

  • This year, those three companies ranked near the bottom of Harris' scale, with Facebook at 97th, Twitter 98th and TikTok 94th out of 100 brands. While companies that produce phones and consoles ranked much higher — Samsung at sixth and Sony at 10th.
  • Companies like Microsoft and Apple that sell hardware, services and content land in the middle, ranking 15th and 21st in terms of overall reputation.
  • Amazon held its position near the top of the list, at eighth. As a retail platform that sends a river of goods into customers' lives, it has avoided the social-media taint.
  • Google, the digital world's top information provider and ad seller, ranked 31st. (Although Google-run YouTube, the internet's largest video platform, qualifies as social media, it maintains a largely separate brand identity.)
  • Some enterprise tech firms also fared well, with IBM ranking 11th.

Our thought bubble: Life online right now can feel like a big mess, so it's little wonder that the firms that operate the platforms where people congregate are taking a lot of blame.

  • There's no end of scammers trying to steal your passwords and spammers trying to steal your attention.
  • Political debate has become polarized and extreme.
  • Social media firms face anger from the right for alleged censorship and from the left for tolerating misinformation.
  • Our phones gleam in our hands and capture us with their miniaturized beauty. Then we turn them on.

Be smart: Companies can win the public over with innovative and delightful products, but that doesn't necessarily correlate with consumer trust.

  • Tesla and Apple are ranked first and fifth in terms of products and services, but 55th and 54th in terms of trust, representing the biggest consumer perception gaps between those two ratings.

Zoom out: The tech industry's recent stock-market rout mirrors its reputational slide.

  • Amid a brutal market sell-off, tech companies that focus on streaming and social media are facing especially steep declines compared to established tech firms in sectors like hardware and business services.

Go deeper: Full results and methodology

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to state that Samsung was sixth in the poll, not eighth.

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