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Web leaders must do more to stop digital troublemakers

by | Jun 14, 2017 | Public Relations

American consumers are worried that digital platforms are being overrun by “bad actors”—and want web leaders to take a more hands-on approach to combatting them, according to new research from the Digital Citizens Alliance.

In a survey of more than 1,200 people, the researchers found nearly two-thirds of Americans said their trust in digital platforms has dropped in the last year. To renew their trust, respondents want digital leaders to conduct more proactive monitoring and action to combat these bad actors.

The research survey is part of the firm’s latest research paper, The Trouble in Our Digital Midst, which probes how digital platforms are being exploited. Over the last year, illegal and/or illicit activities have chipped away at the credibility of the Internet, the study asserts.

Loss of privacy, blue-chip advertising running next to terrorist-recruiting videos, and “fake news” reports have taken a toll on Internet users’ faith in the digital platforms that Americans rely upon to work, live, play, and connect.

Digital Citizens Alliance Infographic

The survey found a loss of confidence about the safety of digital platforms:

  • Two-thirds of Americans give digital platforms such as Facebook, Google and Twitter a “C” grade or lower when asked “what grade would you give digital platforms for ensuring that these platforms are not overrun by those trying to deceive, scam or trick consumers?”
  • Sixty-four percent of Americans say that the fake news issue has made them less likely to trust the Internet as a source of information.

“Digital platforms deserve credit for the steps they have taken to deal with issues such as ‘fake news’ and objectionable content, but clearly Americans are looking for more,” said Tom Galvin, executive director of Digital Citizens, in a news release. “Americans want a more hands-on approach that includes monitoring these platforms and taking action to keep consumers safe.”

Galvin added: “Facebook is hiring a few thousand more people to monitor for violent videos. Google has added a fact checker to look at search and news search results, but we see that many Internet users remain concerned and want digital leaders to go flag and go after the digital criminals who are victimizing them and undermining trust.”

The research survey reveals:

  • Seventy-five percent of Americans said they expect digital platforms to do more to keep the Internet safe and trustworthy.
  • Asked what role they want digital platforms to play when it comes to illicit activities, 59 percent responded that, “They should monitor their digital platforms to find these activities and remove them when they find them.” That compares to twenty percent who said they shouldn’t have to monitor but just remove them when notified and just six percent who said they should not remove them at all.
  • Nearly three-quarters of respondents see the pairing of brand name advertising with offensive online content—like ISIS/terrorism recruiting videos—as a threat to the continued trust and integrity of the Internet.

The report makes several recommendations on “platform principles” to restore consumers’ confidence. Those recommendations include:

  • Companies working to better educate their users on their platforms’ existing privacy protections so that they can better protect themselves.
  • Leveraging big data to address the threats posed by criminals and other bad actors, and increasing cooperation and information sharing to identify bad actors across the Internet community.
  • Better analyzing usage data that companies already collect to highlight behavior that is anomalous and suggests illicit, unlawful, or illegal conduct.
  • Boosting investments in public awareness initiatives is also essential regardless of what other steps are taken.

Results from Digital Citizens Alliance poll conducted from April 12 – May 17 on Survey Monkey. There were 1,240 responses to the poll. The margin of error is ±/-3.6 percent.

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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 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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