Mar 6, 2019

Facebook's reputation is sinking fast

Data: The Axios Harris Poll 100; Chart: Axios Visuals

Facebook's reputation took a long dive over the past year, staggering under an avalanche of controversies, a new Harris Poll survey in partnership with Axios has found.

Why it matters: Other tech giants, including Google and Apple, have seen their reputations decline as well. But Facebook's drop in the Axios Harris Poll 100, a new partnership between Axios and Harris Poll, is in a class of its own — suggesting that the social network may be uniquely vulnerable to a loss of public confidence.

Facebook's annus horribilis included:

  • The Cambridge Analytica scandal.
  • Concerns about election-manipulating misinformation.
  • Charges of anti-conservative bias.
  • Security breaches.
  • Privacy controversies.

The big picture: Facebook has lagged its tech-behemoth brethren from the year it first entered Harris' list in 2013. But the latest rank represents a new low.

  • It ranked especially low in some of the individual characteristics that make up the overall score, including citizenship, ethics and trust.
  • Google and Apple have also seen their previously sterling reputations tarnish, though not as severely as Facebook's.

Amazon, which fell from the top position to second place in the Harris poll, is coasting serenely above the privacy-controversy maelstrom.

  • That could be because customers hold a different set of expectations for what is essentially a store, compared to a platform like Facebook or Google where people mingle, share and argue.
  • As Amazon's Echo smart speakers and Alexa voice assistant move the retail giant into homes, it's likely to face more privacy challenges.

The bottom line: Facebook hasn't suffered too much damage from all of the scrutiny so far — there's no sign that masses of users are deleting their accounts. But the reputational damage could become a problem if it starts having an impact on how much time users spend on Facebook and how much they share.

Methodology: The Axios Harris Poll 100 survey was conducted November through January in a nationally representative sample. One group, 6,118 U.S. adults, was asked to identify the two companies they believe have the best and worst reputations. Then, the 100 “most visible companies” were ranked by a second group of 18,228 adults across key measures of corporate reputation.

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