Californians want tech companies to step up

Nearly two-thirds of the state's residents trust the industry, but want better oversight, too.

Abrar Al-Heeti Video producer / CNET
Abrar Al-Heeti is a video host and producer for CNET, with an interest in internet trends, entertainment, pop culture and digital accessibility. Before joining the video team, she was a writer for CNET's culture team. She graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Though Illinois is home, she now loves San Francisco -- steep inclines and all.
Expertise Abrar has spent her career at CNET breaking down the latest trends on TikTok, Twitter and Instagram, while also reporting on diversity and inclusion initiatives in Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Credentials
  • Named a Tech Media Trailblazer by the Consumer Technology Association in 2019, a winner of SPJ NorCal's Excellence in Journalism Awards in 2022 and has three times been a finalist in the LA Press Club's National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.
Abrar Al-Heeti
3 min read

Californians have a complicated relationship with the tech industry.

It's the most trusted sector of the Golden State's economy, with 62 percent of respondents expressing confidence in the industry, according to the California supplement to the Edelman Trust Barometer, which was released Tuesday. However, the supplemental survey -- which measures attitudes toward technology, the government, the economy and the workplace -- also found Californians want the government to prevent the creation of tech monopolies, tax companies that move manufacturing overseas and hold tech firms liable for data breaches.

Snapchat App on cellphone screen

Only 37 percent of Californians trust social media companies like Facebook and Twitter. 


Edelman surveyed 1,502 adults across the state last month, asking their thoughts about topics ranging from gender equality in the workplace to whether tech companies should be involved in improving the state's housing costs, traffic and education. 

The results reveal that sentiment was largely shaped by Russia's meddling in the 2016 election, as well as the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements that highlight sexual misconduct. More than 70 percent of women say the media, entertainment and tech industries need to do a better job of creating gender equality and ending sexual discrimination. The tech industry has taken heat for years over the relative lack of women in technical and leadership roles and for paying women less than men in comparable jobs.  

A third of the women surveyed say they've been sexually harassed at work. The number jumps to 46 percent for those in the San Francisco Bay Area, the seat of the tech industry, and 49 percent for college-educated women.

Only 38 percent of California respondents say they've personally benefited from tech's growth, while well over half say "the tech industry makes the wealthy even wealthier, but doesn't really help the rest of California."

The survey shows broad distrust of social media companies, with just 37 percent of respondents saying they trust Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms because of their roles in spreading misinformation and false news. Respondents in the Bay Area were even warier, with 35 percent of the respondents saying they trusted the companies. 


Edelman surveyed more than 1,500 Californian adults, including 500 San Francisco Bay Area residents.


"The people who seem to know Silicon Valley best are also calling for it to be further regulated," said Stacey Zolt Hara, managing director of corporate and public affairs at Edelman.

More than 70 percent of all respondents say they want to see the government regulate social media giants by requiring them to review all posted content for accuracy and fining them when they host or repeat false news. Nearly half of all respondents (49 percent) say they're concerned that people are too focused on gadgets, and aren't aware enough of what's happening around them.

The results show Californians want the tech industry to think globally but act locally: 75 percent say tech companies should help improve local issues; 68 percent say they want companies to address their impact on housing costs; and 81 percent say tech should do its part to make sure the "education system keeps pace with necessary emerging skills," according to the survey.

"All politics is local," Hara said.

The survey also reveals respondents find women more trustworthy with 65 percent responding that women in power are more trustworthy than men, up 7 percent from last year.

"There's a completely different set of expectations among millennial women," Hara said, "and that's forcing a huge amount of change."

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