Study Reveals Media Sentiment Toward World’s Biggest Tech Giants, Including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple and More

While technology can connect loved ones around the globe, dictate the success or failure of a business, and act as a positive agent of change, it’s also become one of the most popular news sources. All content (good or bad) including rumors, viral memes, and conspiracy theories spread at lightning speed, which has become a pressing issue for government agencies and technology companies. Facebook’s 2016 election scandal and the constant Twitter feed of President Trump are just two instances of how misinformation on social media can have rippling effects, and even become a threat to public health.

Whether we’re searching for the best restaurants on Google or posting the latest TikTok dance, becoming patrons of these tech giants seems inevitable. But have recent scandals and controversies around some companies changed the public’s perception, and how might this differ post-pandemic?

To explore the media’s coverage of major tech companies such as Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, UNSW Sydney collected more than 250,000 articles from 2015-2019. They used Python’s Simplifying Sentiment Analysis with VADER to identify and extract aggregate opinions on today's top tech giants.

It’s no secret that our trust in tech companies has plummeted over the past few years, and this might also explain the change in media coverage. In 2015, 25.7% of articles had negative sentiment toward major tech giants, steadily increasing to 35.5% by 2019. Facebook specifically saw a compound news sentiment percentage change of -53.3%, correlating with their privacy issues and security breaches. The study found that this decline started in 2017, shortly before Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica data scandal and Mark Zuckerberg’s live testimony. When analyzing coverage across the globe in 2019, British media actually has the highest percentage (51%) of negative articles mentioning Facebook. The U.S. (44.6%) and Australia (42.7%) follow closely behind.

While they haven’t faced quite the same backlash, Twitter still ranks second among social platforms with 35.7% of articles having negative sentiment. They’re the only company studied that didn’t have a single year of improvement in terms of media mentions. 2018 in particular was a challenge when the U.S. Senate reports revealed that Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election via social media networks (including Twitter). Unlike Facebook, the U.S. had the most negative mentions of Twitter (41.9%) in 2019, followed by the UK (41.3%) and Australia (37.7%).

Outside of social platforms, some of the largest tech giants such as Microsoft and Google have fought for their dominance in the technology sector. The study found that Amazon (the only e-commerce business analyzed) had more articles with positive sentiment (77%) than any other company. Apple (73.2%) and Microsoft (71.5%) also won the public over, coming in closely behind with positive mentions.

When diving deeper into sentiment value over the past five years, it seems as though Google and Microsoft have taken the biggest hits. Google saw a spike in negative mentions in 2017, correlating with an employee’s 10-page manifesto against women in tech. This instance added to the existing revelations of systemic discrimination issues at the company. In 2019, U.S. media had the most negative sentiment towards Google (39.1%) compared to Australia (36.4%) and the UK (36.2%).

On the other hand, Microsoft also saw a large increase in negative mentions in 2017, but not due to prejudicial issues. The company gave up on its’ Groove Music services and Windows phone this year, impacting consumer perception. Overall, Microsoft has seen a compound news sentiment change of -15.3%. They had the most negative mentions from Australian media last year (33.1%), with the U.S. (26.9%) and UK (25.5%) following closely behind.

Amidst the pandemic and current political climate, it’s important to learn how company culture and business ethics could make or break public perceptions. With 2020 quickly passing us by, it will be interesting to see how media sentiment changes over the next year, and in the near future.

Media Sentiment Analysis on Major Tech Companies

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