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怎样监管科技平台?
Why we need to regulate the tech platforms

来源:FT中文网    2017-11-09 07:09



        The US Senate Intelligence Committee’s grilling last week of Facebook, Google, and Twitter told us something we already knew: Russia manipulated the US election results. Only the scale of the effort, which reached roughly half the US population, was a surprise.        美国参议院情报委员会(Senate Intelligence Committee)上周对Facebook、谷歌(Google)和Twitter的质询,证实了一些我们已经知道的事情:俄罗斯操纵了美国选举结果。让人意外的只是这一操纵努力的规模:它竟然触及了美国大约一半人口。
        It also told us something that we knew, but had forgotten: industry self-regulation rarely works. From turn-of- the-century railroads, through energy markets in the 1990s, to the financial industry circa 2007, there are many examples that bear this out. The tech industry is only the latest case in point.        这个听证会还证实了一些我们知道、但此前忘记的事情:行业自律很少奏效。从19世纪末/20世纪初的铁路行业、20世纪90年代的能源市场、到2007年前后的金融行业,有很多例子证明了这一点。科技行业只是最新的例证。
        The contrition and apologies of the executives who sat in front of the committee did not add up to any significant shift, either in business model or philosophy. Rather, their vague promises to “do better,” and claims that they simply can’t track the complexity of their own algorithms just underscores the need for a cohesive regulatory framework around companies that have become monopoly powers, and should ultimately be seen as public utilities.        坐在情报委员会面前的一众高管的懊悔和道歉,并不意味着商业模式或者理念方面的任何重大改变。相反,他们作出的要“做得更好”的含糊承诺,以及有关他们无法追踪自己公司算法的复杂性的说法,恰恰说明有必要针对这些科技公司制定一套连贯的监管框架,这些公司已经成为垄断力量,因此归根结底应该被视为公用事业公司。
        The problem, of course, is that smart regulation is very tough to craft. Finance is, again, the perfect example of this — the complexity and global fragmentation of the post-2008 regulatory landscape has introduced its own risks into the system.        当然,问题在于很难设计聪明的监管。金融业再次成为绝佳例子——2008年之后监管格局的复杂性和全球碎片化,本身将风险引入了系统。
        So how do we create a framework for government oversight of Big Tech that protects consumer and societal interests, curbs growth-dampening monopoly power, and allows us to keep the internet services we depend on? I would argue for a focus on three core principles — transparency, simplicity and size.        那么,我们该如何创建一个监管框架,让政府监督大科技公司,以保护消费者和社会利益、遏制不利于增长的垄断力量,同时保留我们依赖的互联网服务?我主张把重点放在3条核心原则上——透明度、简洁性和规模。
        Starting with transparency, the internet giants should be required not only to report politically related advertising as other media do (and as the proposed Honest Ads Act would require), but also to use both people and algorithms to track hate-driven search results. As the academic and tech-critic Jonathan Taplin put it to me, “the notion that it’s impossible for Facebook, Google and Twitter to police their platforms is a big lie. They currently do a very good job, using AI, of keeping all pornography off their sites.”        首先是透明度,不仅应该要求互联网巨头像其他媒体那样报告政治相关广告(这也是拟议中的《诚实广告法案》(Honest Ads Act)的一项要求),还应该要求它们使用人工和算法两种手段来追踪仇恨驱动的搜索结果。就如学者和科技评论家乔纳森•塔普林(Jonathan Taplin)对我所说的,“有关Facebook、谷歌和Twitter无法管控它们自己的平台的说法是个弥天大谎。在利用人工智能屏蔽色情内容方面,它们现在做得非常好。”
        This implicitly argues for a re-examination of the legal loopholes in the Communications Decency Act that allow platform companies to eschew responsibility for what is on their sites. And in fact, there has been a significant move in that direction; under pressure, the Internet Association finally announced support late last week for a bipartisan bill to eliminate federal liability protections for websites that knowingly assist, support, or facilitate online sex trafficking, something they had resisted since it would open the door to further tweaks to the act’s liability exemptions.        这暗示我们应该重新审视《通信内容端正法》(Communications Decency Act)中的法律漏洞,该法允许提供平台服务的公司无需对平台上的内容承担责任。事实上,在这个方向上已经有了一个重大动作;在压力之下,互联网协会(Internet Association)终于在上周宣布支持一项两党法案,对那些在知情的情况下协助、支持、或为在线性贩运提供便利的网站,剥夺对它们的联邦责任保护。此前互联网协会一直抵制此事,因为这将为进一步微调该法的责任豁免打开大门。
        Transparency for users would also be increased with “opt in” provisions that allow them more control over how their data are used (as is the case with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation). Ideally, this would be a first step towards a better understanding of how companies themselves value data. As one senior policymaker’s aide pointed out to me, the monetary value of data currently gets shoehorned into “goodwill” on financial statements or, more often, is left out entirely.        让用户在更大程度上控制自身数据如何被使用的“选择加入”规定(就如欧盟的《一般数据保护条例》(General Data Protection Regulation)),还能提高用户层面的透明度。理想情况下,这将是朝着更好地理解企业本身如何对数据估价迈出的第一步。就如一名资深政策制定者的助手对我指出的,数据的货币价值现在在财务报表上被硬塞在“商誉”项下,或者更多时候被完全排除在外。
        Big tech companies should also be required to keep audit logs of the data they feed into their algorithms, and be prepared to explain their algorithms to the public. “A recurring pattern has developed,” says Frank Pasquale at the University of Maryland, “in which some entity complains about a major internet company’s practices, the company claims that its critics don’t understand how its algorithms sort and rank content, and befuddled onlookers are left to sift through rival stories in the press.”        还应该要求大型科技公司保留他们输入算法的数据的审计日志,并且准备好向公众解释它们的算法。马里兰大学(University of Maryland)法学教授弗兰克•帕斯奎尔(Frank Pasquale)表示:“目前出现了一种反复出现的情况:某个实体抱怨一家大型互联网公司的实践,而该公司声称,批评者不理解其算法是如何整理和排序内容的,而一团雾水的旁观者只能在报上梳理相互对立的说法。”
        This relates to the point about simplicity. Complexity (or the illusion of it) is too often used to avoid legitimate public interest questions, such as how propagandists get their messages across, or how users are tracked and valued. Companies should help us understand all this by opening the black box of their algorithms. This needn’t be a competitive disadvantage; research has shown that it is the amount of data plugged into an algorithm, rather than the cleverness of the algorithm itself, that is the key here. To the extent that users trust what companies are doing, they may be more willing to part with precious data.        这与简洁性的原则有关。复杂性(或其假象)往往被用于躲避正当的公共利益问题,比如宣传者如何传播他们的讯息,或者用户是怎样被跟踪和估价的。公司应该通过开启算法黑匣子来帮助我们理解这一切。这不一定是竞争劣势;研究显示,关键在于馈入算法的数据量,而不是算法本身的聪明程度。况且,如果用户信任公司在做的事情,他们可能更愿意分享宝贵的数据。
        Finally, regulators need to address the size issue. Yes, the services big tech companies offer are great, and mostly free, which allows them to avoid antitrust legislation in the US system, where consumer pricing is considered the measure of power. Yet there are myriad examples of the largest players using their size to steal smaller companies’ ideas and “lowball” them during dealmaking, or to reshape the regulatory framework to serve their own interests.        最后,监管机构需要解决规模问题。没错,大型科技公司提供的服务非常好,而且大多是免费的,这让它们能够规避美国法律体系中的反垄断法;在美国,消费者定价被视为力量的衡量标准。然而,有大量实例表明,最大型企业利用自己的规模窃取小公司的创意,并通过交易占小公司的便宜,或者重塑监管框架以服务于自己的利益。
        It is all too reminiscent of the power held by 19th-century railroad barons. They, too, dominated their economy and society. And they, too, were able to price gouge, drive competitors out of business, and avoid taxation and regulation, largely by buying off politicians.        所有这一切都让人想起19世纪铁路巨头所拥有的威力。当年他们也主宰着经济和社会。他们也能够哄抬价格,将竞争对手赶出市场,逃避税收和监管——主要通过收买政客来实现。
        Yet eventually, they were curbed by the creation of the Interstate Commerce Commission. It included some provisions that the industry favoured, as well as many it lobbied against. Rather than crush innovation, the ICC ushered in a period of prosperity by allowing technology benefits to be widely shared. It is time to think hard about whether we need another ICC — an Internet Commerce Commission — to do the same.        然而,他们最终因州际商务委员会(Interstate Commerce Commission)的创立而受到遏制。它包括一些行业青睐的规定,也有许多行业游说反对的规定。州际商务委员会并未压制创新,而是让技术效益得到广泛分享,从而开启了一段繁荣时期。是时候认真思考我们是否需要又一个ICC,即互联网商务委员会(Internet Commerce Commission),来做同样的事情。
                
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