Social-Media Giants Fall in Reputation, Poll Shows

By Petr Svab
Petr Svab
Petr Svab
Petr Svab is a reporter covering New York. Previously, he covered national topics including politics, economy, education, and law enforcement.
March 9, 2019 Updated: March 10, 2019

Companies that dominate the social-media realm have lost esteem among Americans, dropping dramatically in the reputation rankings of the 100 most visible companies, according to the latest annual release by the Harris/Axios pollster (pdf).

Google used to be No. 3 on the list in 2016, but sunk to No. 41 in the 2019 ranking. Facebook, never quite a darling of the public, debuted as No. 31 in 2011 and was still No. 51 in 2018. It then plummeted to No. 94 in 2019, as indicated in a summary report (pdf).

For the first time, Twitter made it on the list, but ended up No. 89.

The list was put together using two surveys. The first, in November, asked over 6,100 people to name two companies with the best and the worst reputations. In the second survey, in January, over 18,200 are asked to rate two companies with which they are “very” or “somewhat” familiar on nine attributes, including trustworthiness, vision, growth prospect, shared values, ethics, innovation, and product quality.

“If a company is not on our list, it does not suggest that they have either good or bad reputation, but rather they didn’t reach a critical level of visibility to be measured,” the pollster stated in the recently released report.

Facebook Plunges

Facebook was the biggest loser of the list, tarred by data-privacy scandals, including multiple allegations of improperly sharing user data with other companies.

Only 15 percent of Americans agreed that Facebook securely protects its customers’ personal information and data. For Google, 37 percent agreed.

Bias and Privacy

Google, Facebook, and Twitter had their executives grilled in congressional hearings in 2018, getting heat from both sides of the aisle.

Democrats have largely focused on the companies’ troubles in purging from their platforms foreign actors meddling in U.S. elections, and stopping user data from getting hacked or improperly shared.

Republicans, including President Donald Trump, have accused the companies of political bias as a lineup of influential right-leaning users have been booted from the platforms. The companies have also been expanding their censorship of politically incorrect content, prominently “hate speech”—a category even the companies themselves acknowledge isn’t clearly defined and, some experts warned, may not be definable at all.

Light and Shade on Amazon

Amazon was dethroned as the company with the best reputation by Wegmans, an East Coast supermarket chain. It was only the second time Amazon was pushed to second place since 2013. Americans gave the company good grades for growth, vision, services, and innovation, but poorer for shared values and ethics, including employee treatment.

“America still loves its smiling boxes, but are beginning to grow uneasy with Amazon’s reach and power,” the pollster said.

Government’s the Worst

Many respondents appeared to vent their political frustrations through the poll, assigning abysmal ratings to The Trump Organization, which Trump handed to his children after assuming the presidency, as well as to the U.S. Government itself, which entered into the ranking for the first time, taking the bottom spot.

“Never matter that the government isn’t technically a company. It isn’t on the FORTUNE 500. But Americans feel the way the Democrats and the Republicans run business is the worst of any company they can imagine,” the pollster stated. “On an unaided basis, Americans (both progressives and conservatives) called out Uncle Sam Inc. as the least respected and trustworthy company in America.”

Petr Svab
Petr Svab
Petr Svab is a reporter covering New York. Previously, he covered national topics including politics, economy, education, and law enforcement.