Tech Employee Survey - Protocol — The people, power and politics of tech
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Protocol Tech Employee Survey

2021

Protocol's inaugural survey of tech workers dives deep into how employees across tech feel about the existential regulatory issues facing their industry.

Not only did the majority say that the industry is too powerful, but around 40% also said that tech does more harm than good. Only about 45% of tech employees disagreed, signaling that even within the industry, tech workers worry about the negative impact technology is having on the world.

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Remedies are in short supply. More than 68% want their companies to partner with or be acquired by a Big Tech player, and three quarters said Big Tech companies should be allowed to acquire other firms. Just over 40% think that Facebook, Amazon, Alphabet and Apple should be broken up. Despite their concerns about tech's power and negative influence, tech employees don't see antitrust enforcement as the solution.

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Even people within the tech industry agree it's high time to reform Section 230, the law underpinning the modern internet — that is, if they know what it is. Only 62% of respondents said they know what Section 230 is (the rest said they either don't know or are neutral). But of that 62%, nearly three quarters — 71% — said they agree the law needs to be reformed.

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Over 40% of the tech employees we surveyed agree that Big Tech should stop working with law enforcement altogether. A smaller percentage — just under 34% — disagree. This is in keeping with a trend of tech employee activists at companies like Microsoft and Google, who have called on their employers to end contracts with both law enforcement and the military in recent years.

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The Trump administration adopted a hawkish stance toward China's tech industry, placing dozens of companies on the country's trade blacklist and signing multiple executive orders aimed at barring Chinese social media apps — most notably TikTok — from the U.S. Tech employees by and large said they think the standoff should end, expressing an openness toward working more closely with Chinese tech firms.

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Congress is spending more than ever on AI-related initiatives, and the Biden administration has named investing in artificial intelligence R&D as a top priority. The key now is passing regulations to establish parameters around how the government and private entities can use AI, which can supercharge real-world biases and disproportionately harm people of color. Seventy-three percent of respondents said they agree that the government should regulate AI.

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