The Evil List. Which tech companies are really doing the most harm?

Here are the 30 most dangerous, ranked by the people who know.

  • SOURCE:, 2020-01-15

    Maybe it was fake news, Russian trolls, and Cambridge Analytica. Or Travis Kalanick's conniption in an Uber. Or the unmasking of Theranos. Or all those Twitter Nazis, and racist Google results, and conspiracy theories on YouTube. Though activists, academics, reporters, and regulators had sent up warning flares for years, it wasn't until quite recently that the era of enchantment with Silicon Valley ended. The list of scandals-over user privacy and security, over corporate surveillance and data collection, over fraud and foreign propaganda and algorithmic bias, to name a few-was as unending as your Instagram feed. There were hearings, resignations, investigations, major new regulations in Europe, and calls for new laws at home. There was an industry that insisted it now valued privacy and safety but still acted otherwise. There was WeWork, whatever that was.

    The tech industry doesn't intoxicate us like it did just a few years ago. Keeping up with its problems-and its fixes, and its fixes that cause new problems-is dizzying. Separating out the meaningful threats from the noise is hard. Is Facebook really the danger to democracy it looks like? Is Uber really worse than the system it replaced? Isn't Amazon's same-day delivery worth it? Which harms are real and which are hypothetical? Has the techlash gotten it right? And which of these companies is really the worst? Which ones might be, well, evil?

    We don't mean evil in the mustache-twirling, burn-the-world-from-a-secret-lair sense-well, we mostly don't mean that-but rather in the way Googlers once swore to avoid mission drift, respect their users, and spurn short-term profiteering, even though the company now regularly faces scandals in which it has violated its users' or workers' trust. We mean ills that outweigh conveniences. We mean temptations and poison pills and unanticipated outcomes.

    Which brings us to this list. Slate sent ballots to a wide range of journalists, scholars, advocates, and others who have been thinking critically about technology for years. We asked them to tell us which tech companies they are most concerned about, and we let them decide for themselves what counts as "concerning." We told them to define the category of technology companies as narrowly or broadly as they liked, which is how, say, Exxon Mobil made the list. Each respondent ranked as many as 10 companies-subsidiaries counted as part of parent corporations-with more points going to the choices they placed at the top. Then we added up their votes and got this.

    What did we find? While the major U.S. tech companies topped the vote-read on to find out which came in at No. 1-our respondents are deeply concerned about foreign companies dabbling in surveillance and A.I., as well as the domestic gunners that power the data-broker business. No one thinks Twitter is the worst thing that could happen to a planet, but a lot of people worry about it a little. Companies with the potential to do harm can be as distressing as those with long records of producing it. Privacy people care a lot about misinformation, but misinformation people might not be so worried about privacy. Almost everyone distrusts Peter Thiel. And some people don't have a problem with Amazon or Apple or even Facebook at all-which is why we included dissents for many of the top companies on our list.

    We hope you'll argue over this attempt at finding consensus, make your own mental list, and decide which concerns expressed here are too mild, totally overblown, or exactly right.

    [#01] Amazon

    [#02] Facebook

    [#03] Alphabet

    [#04] Palantir Technologies

    [#05] Uber

    [#06] Apple

    [#07] Microsoft

    [#08] Twitter

    [#09] ByteDance

    [#10] Exxon Mobil

    [#11] Huawei

    [#12] LiveRamp (formerly Acxiom)

    [#13] Tencent

    [#14] Tesla

    [#15] Disney

    [#16] Verizon

    [#17] SpaceX

    [#18] 23andMe

    [#19] Oracle

    [#20] 8kun (formerly 8chan)

    [#21] Cloudflare

    [#22] IBM

    [#23] Anduril Industries

    [#24] Airbnb

    [#25] Megvii

    [#26] Vigilant Solutions

    [#27] The Grid

    [#28] Baidu

    [#29] Cellebrite

    [#30] mSpy

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