The Covid-19 pandemic is changing the public perception of Big Tech from greedy exploiters of personal data to providers of hope.
In a dramatic change from only weeks before, the backlash against Big Tech companies that has defined media coverage for the past few years, has turned into news bringing hope and consolation at a time of great fear.
Presented with an opportunity to rebuild goodwill by being proactive and helpful during the global pandemic, the Big Tech companies have sprung to action and seized the moment.
Big Tech companies are stepping up in the time of crisis
As the Covid-19 related crisis continues to reshape life globally, the Big Tech companies and social platforms have responded with unusual alacrity.
Companies like Facebook and Twitter, which have often been forced to intervene in situations of false news spread, have suddenly started featuring links to high-quality information from the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization. Google followed their lead shortly thereafter.
Big Tech companies have donated millions of dollars to relief efforts and contributed large stocks of N95 masks, acquired during last year’s wildfires, to medical organizations. They have also added sections to their apps highlighting accurate news coverage about Covid-19.
As unemployment has surged, Facebook has pledged US$100m in grants to small businesses, and Amazon has stated it will hire an additional 100,000 people.
While Big Tech’s misdeeds are still apparent, their actual deeds matter more at the time of great crisis. Facebook is being used for comfort by those physically bunkered and social distancing. Google is being drafted as the potential hub of Covid-19 testing. Amazon has become the only personal supply chain for many people.
The Covid-19 pandemic has the potential to harm Facebook and Google
It is too early to know how big tech companies might seize the moment, and their own businesses certainly are not immune to economic fallout. Companies like Facebook and Google have become global ad powerhouses in large part by catering to small firms.
In the near term, as small businesses struggle to deal with the coronavirus-imposed economic crunch, both Facebook and Google are likely to take a hit, perhaps even larger than TV networks and other media firms. However, they have also much to gain from successfully navigating the coronavirus response.
The reputation of greedy exploiters of personal data threatening the competition cannot be wiped out overnight but the ongoing crisis and the proactive doings of Big Tech companies are already changing public perception.