Society Under Strain: Americans Struggle with Technology’s Impact, Look to Policymakers and Internet Companies for Solutions
After a Year of Fake News and Russian Manipulation Allegations, Americans Worry that Democracy is Weakened by New Technologies
Americans Leery of Bitcoin, Skeptical About Ability to Secure Internet
Washington, DC, Jan. 29, 2018 — A new wave of technologies has left Americans unsettled, worried about its impact on democracy, the future of the Internet and how its changing our financial system, according to a new survey released in conjunction with the annual State of the Net conference hosted by the Internet Education Foundation.
So-called fake news and allegations of Russian manipulations of social networks to influence the 2016 election have raised concerns about its negative impact, with 56 percent of Americans saying its weakened American democracy.
In addition, Americans are concerned about financial innovations that many don’t understand. For example, sixty-one percent said they would be uncomfortable accepting a cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin as a payment.
At the same time, a vast majority of Americans surveyed report that the Internet has had a positive impact on their lives. Eighty-five percent said it’s had a positive impact, underscoring that while Americans see troubling issues with technology, they still understand the broader value.
The State of the Net conference is being held at the Newseum on Monday, Jan. 29. Information on how to attend the conference or participate via livestream or Twitter are included below. The Vrge Analytics survey polled 886 Americans on Jan. 25, 2018.
“Americans have high hopes for what the Internet can mean to their lives, but as technology advances it creates new concerns that ultimately end up before Congress and regulators,” said Tim Lordan, Executive Director of the Internet Education Foundation. “Getting ahead of those issues helps citizens, companies and government by easing the disruption on the economy and society.”
For example, Americans are mixed on whether artificial intelligence and virtual assistants enabled by it will be beneficial or harmful. Thirty-seven percent said it will benefit them by making their life and work easier; nearly the same amount (36 percent) said it will be harmful by creating security and privacy issues.
Americans look to policymakers for answers. A majority (53 percent) believe that the laws and regulations that we have today aren’t working to deal with the issues that arise due to the Internet. We should rethink the laws and regulations and change them to reflect a changing world.
And Americans look to Internet companies to keep the Internet protected from cyberattacks. When asked which entity is most responsible for protecting the Internet, 52 percent said Internet companies, 19 percent said the government and 18 percent said it should be the consumers who use it. At the same time, nearly half of Americans (48 percent) believe that while some incidents can be prevented the “Internet cannot be protected from most cyberattacks.” Forty-three percent hold out hope it can be secured.