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Society under cyberstrain—how technology’s impact rattles democracy

by | Feb 9, 2018 | Public Relations

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 from the Internet Education Foundation and Vrge Strategies.

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 it’s 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.

“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, in a news release. “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.

We 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 we look to Internet companies to keep the web 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.

The Vrge Analytics survey polled 886 Americans on Jan. 25, 2018.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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