May 23, 2024 - Technology

Americans don't trust social media companies with AI

A barcode dot chart shows the distribution of Harris 100 reputation scores. Highlighted in green are social media companies with AI products (X, ByteDance and Meta), which had lower scores than companies with a larger focus on AI (OpenAI, Microsoft, Nvidia), highlighted in purple.
Data: Axios/Harris poll; Chart: Simran ParwaniAxios

The U.S. public trusts tech companies leading the generative AI wave — like Nvidia, Microsoft and OpenAI — more than firms chiefly known as social media platforms, like Meta, ByteDance and X.

Why it matters: These findings — part of the 2024 Axios Harris Poll 100 reputation rankings — show that continued fallout from public disenchantment with social media could hamper companies' effort to reinvent themselves as AI innovators.

Stunning stat: Nvidia, the AI chips powerhouse, is a newcomer to the list in 2024 — and also No. 1 in overall reputation, as well as "vision" and "growth." The firm came in at No. 8 for trust.

By the numbers: In overall reputation scores, Nvidia earned 81.2 and Alphabet came in at 77.6, followed closely by Microsoft at 77.5. OpenAI's score was 71.8.

  • Meanwhile, ByteDance scored only 60.7, Meta ranked 59.6 and X/Twitter is second to last on the list, with a reputation score of 58.8.
  • The three social media companies all saw their reputations drop since last year — and were all in the "very poor" range.

Catch up quick: Meta, ByteDance and X have all been working on AI for years, but they are still best known for Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and the social network formerly known as Twitter.

  • Facebook and Instagram have faced a trust crisis with users since the techlash that started with 2018's Cambridge Analytica scandal and was refueled by the ad boycotts of 2020.
  • ByteDance plummeted from "fair" in 2020 to "poor" in 2024 on the reputation scale, as political leaders from both parties have denounced the company's ties with China and a new law requires it to sell TikTok or face a ban.
  • Elon Musk is increasingly making AI the focus of X, even as he courts extremists and fails to moderate hate speech on the platform.
  • Even Gen Z no longer trusts social media.

The big picture: The promise (and perils) of AI have come into focus in the past few years, as its moral, safety and business ramifications will define the future reputation of companies.

  • While over half (58%) of respondents to the poll recognized the importance of integrating AI into products, only 30% said they would be more likely to buy the product or service just because it uses AI.

Public trust in AI is sinking overall. That means companies that rush to show they're innovative by adding AI to products could also harm their reputations.

  • Google and Meta both suffered blowback from new tools that generate AI images.
  • Apple wanted to highlight how thin its latest iPad is — but the ad promoting it reminded customers of the perils of AI instead.

OpenAI, which makes ChatGPT and is the AI industry's standard-bearer in the U.S. today, lost some public trust over the past year, per the survey.

  • OpenAI's overall score fell 5.8 points from last year — one of the biggest drops on the list.
  • The company and its CEO, Sam Altman, faced a high-stakes boardroom battle last November. More recently, they've been dogged by a series of controversies that could further cloud their credibility.

Zoom out: Deepfakes and misinformation are stoking AI fears, and more and more Americans worry that AI will replace their jobs, or creative jobs in general.

  • 74% of respondents to the survey agreed with the statement: "Human creativity is what makes many products and services amazing — and AI won't be able to replace that."

Between the lines: This survey is the result of a partnership between Axios and Harris Poll to gauge the reputation of the most visible brands in America, based on 20 years of Harris Poll research.

Go deeper: Full results and poll methodology

Editor's note: This story was corrected to show that Alphabet's overall reputation score was 77.6 (not 77).

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