Do social media threaten democracy? 社交媒体会威胁民主吗?

Facebook, Google and Twitter were supposed to improve politics. Something has gone very wrong.

were supposed to 本应该,也就暗示了它们没有改善政治。

IN 1962 a British political scientist, Bernard Crick, published “In Defence of Politics”. He argued that the art of political horse-trading, far from being shabby, lets people of different beliefs live together in a peaceful, thriving society.

In a liberal democracy, nobody gets exactly what he wants, but everyone broadly has the freedom to lead the life he chooses. However, without decent information, civility and conciliation, societies resolve their differences by resorting to coercion.

How Crick would have been dismayed by the falsehood and partisanship on display in this week’s Senate committee hearings in Washington. Not long ago social media held out the promise of a more enlightened politics, as accurate information and effortless communication helped good people drive out corruption, bigotry and lies. Yet Facebook acknowledged that before and after last year’s American election, be- tween January 2015 and August this year, 146m users may have seen Russian misinformation on its platform. Google’s YouTube admitted to 1,108 Russian-linked videos and Twitter to 36,746 accounts. Far from bringing enlightenment, social media have been spreading poison.
本周在华盛顿举行的参议院听证会上表现出来的谎言和偏袒,一定会让克里克大失所望。不久之前,人们还希望社交媒体能够促进民主政治的发展,因为精准的信息和无障碍的交流能够帮助人们消除腐败、偏见和谎言。然而 Facebook 承认,在去年美国大选前后,在在2015年1月到2017年8月,1.46亿用户可能在其平台上阅读过俄罗斯的假信息。谷歌的 YouTube 承认,共有1108部与俄罗斯相关的视频,推特有36746个相关账户。社交媒体不仅没有促进民主政治的发展,反而传播“毒药”。

Russia’s trouble-making is only the start. From South Africa to Spain, politics is getting uglier. Part of the reason is that, by spreading untruth and outrage, corroding voters’ judgment and aggravating partisanship, social media erode the conditions for the horse-trading that Crick thought fosters liberty.
俄罗斯的捣乱只是一个开始。 从南非到西班牙,政治越来越丑陋。 部分原因是,通过散布不真实和愤怒,腐蚀选民的判断力,加剧党派分裂,社交媒体侵蚀了政治交易的土壤。

corrode 动词 使腐蚀,侵蚀。
aggravate 动词 加重,使恶化。
erode 动词 侵蚀;逐渐毁坏;损害。
fosters liberty 促进自由

The use of social media does not cause division so much as amplify it. The financial crisis of 2007-08 stoked popular anger at a wealthy elite that had left everyone else behind. The culture wars have split voters by identity rather than class. Nor are social media alone in their power to polarise—just look at cable TV and talk radio. But, whereas Fox News is familiar, social media platforms are new and still poorly understood. And, because of how they work, they wield extraordinary influence.
社交媒体的使用不会造成分化甚至于增强它。 2007 – 08年的金融危机引发了民众对富有精英的公愤,因为这些富有精英对广大的贫苦大众不管不顾。 文化战争是通过身份而不是阶级来划分选民的。 也不仅仅是社交媒体的力量使之两极分化 – 只是看看有线电视和电台谈话节目就知道了。 但是,尽管福克斯新闻为大众所熟知,但社交媒体平台是新的,而且还不怎么被大众了解。 而且,由于社交媒体的工作方式,它发挥了非凡的影响力。

so much as 甚至于
amplify 动词 增强
stoke 动词 煽动;激起
popular anger 公愤
a wealthy elite 富有的精英
split 动词 划分
polarise: equal to polarize 使两极分化
whereas 然而,但是,尽管

They make their money by putting photos, personal posts, news stories and ads in front of you. Because they can measure how you react, they know just how to get under your skin. They collect data about you in order to have algorithms to determine what will catch your eye, in an “attention economy” that keeps users scrolling, clicking and sharing— again and again and again. Anyone setting out to shape opinion can produce dozens of ads, analyse them and see which is hardest to resist. The result is compelling: one study found that users in rich countries touch their phones 2,600 times a day.
他们通过在你面前放置照片,个人帖子,新闻报道和广告来赚钱。 因为他们可以衡量你如何反应,他们知道如何得到你的内在。 他们收集关于您的数据,以便通过算法来确定什么会吸引您的注意力,在“注意力经济”中让用户一次又一次地滚动,点击和分享。 任何想要塑造舆论的人都可以制作数十个广告,分析这些广告,看看哪些是最难抵制的。 结果令人信服:一项研究发现,富裕国家的用户每天点击他们的手机2600次。

It would be wonderful if such a system helped wisdom and truth rise to the surface. But, whatever Keats said, truth is not beauty so much as it is hard work—especially when you disagree with it. Everyone who has scrolled through Facebook knows how, instead of imparting wisdom, the system dishes out compulsive stuff that tends to reinforce people’s biases.
如果这样的系统帮助智慧和真相浮出水面,那将是美好的。 但是,无论 Keats 如何说,事实并非如此美丽,因为它是艰苦的工作 – 特别是当你不同意它时。

dish out 分发,传播
compulsive 强迫性的
tend to 倾向于
biases 偏见

This aggravates the politics of contempt that took hold, in the United States at least, in the 1990s. Because different sides see different facts, they share no empirical basis for reaching a compromise. Because each side hears time and again that the other lot are good for nothing but lying, bad faith and slander, the system has even less room for empathy. Because people are sucked into a maelstrom of pettiness, scandal and outrage, they lose sight of what matters for the society they share.
这至少在20世纪90年代加剧了蔑视政治,至少在美国是如此。 由于不同的方面看到不同的事实,它们没有达成妥协的基础。 因为每一方都会一次又一次地听到另一方面只是说谎,不诚实和诽谤,所以这个系统更不会有同情心。 因为人们陷入了一种小气,丑闻和愤怒的漩涡,忽视了什么是最重要的。

This tends to discredit the compromises and subtleties of liberal democracy, and to boost the politicians who feed off conspiracy and nativism. Consider the probes into Russia’s election hack by Congress and the special prosecutor, Robert Mueller, who has just issued his first indictments. After Russia attacked America, Americans ended up attacking each other (see next leader). Because the framers of the constitution wanted to hold back tyrants and mobs, social media aggravate Washington gridlock. In Hungary and Poland, without such constraints, they help sustain an illiberal, winner-takes-all style of democracy. In Myanmar, where Facebook is the main source of news for many, it has deepened the hatred of the Rohingya, victims of ethnic cleansing.
这往往会抹杀自由民主的妥协和微妙,并助长那些阴谋和本土化的政客。考虑到国会和特别检察官Robert Mueller对美国选举俄罗斯黑客事件的调查,他刚刚发布了第一份起诉。俄罗斯黑客后,美国人最终互相攻击。因为宪法的制定者想阻止暴君和暴徒,社会媒体加剧了华盛顿的僵局。在匈牙利和波兰,没有这些限制,他们有助于维持一个自由主义的、赢家通吃的民主作风。在缅甸,脸谱网是许多人的主要新闻来源,它加深了对种族清洗受害者的罗辛亚的仇恨。

discredit 动词 败坏…的名声
subtleties 名词 细微差别;精妙之处
feed off 依靠…提供的东西维持(生活),从…中取食
conspiracy 阴谋
nativism 本土主义
probes 调查
Russia’s election hack 美国选举俄罗斯黑客事件
the special prosecutor 特别检察官
end up 最后变成

gridlock 僵局
(usually in politics 通常用于政治) 僵局(因意见分歧而无法采取行动)
释义:a situation in which people with different opinions are not able to agree with each other and so no action can be taken
例句:Congress is in gridlock.

hatred 仇恨

What is to be done? People will adapt, as they always do. A survey this week found that only 37% of Americans trust what they get from social media, half the share that trust printed newspapers and magazines. Yet in the time it takes to adapt, bad governments with bad politics could do a lot of harm.

Society has created devices, such as libel, and ownership laws, to rein in old media. Some are calling for social-media companies, like publishers, to be similarly accountable for what appears on their platforms; to be more transparent; and to be treated as monopolies that need breaking up. All these ideas have merit, but they come with trade-offs. When Facebook farms out items to independent outfits for fact-checking, the evidence that it moderates behavior is mixed. Moreover, politics is not like other kinds of speech; it is dangerous to ask a handful of big firms to deem what is healthy for society. Congress wants transparency about who pays for political ads, but a lot of malign influence comes through people carelessly sharing barely credible news posts. Breaking up social-media giants might make sense in antitrust terms, but it would not help with political speech—indeed, by multiplying the number of platforms, it could make the industry harder to manage.
社会创造了诽谤和所有权法等手段来控制旧媒体。 一些人呼吁社交媒体公司,如出版商,对其平台上出现的内容负责; 更透明; 并被视为需要拆分的垄断组织。当Facebook将项目外包给独立机构进行事实核查时,其缓和行为的证据是混杂的。而且,政治不像其他类型的演讲;国会希望知道谁支付了政治广告,但是人们草率地分享了几乎不可信的新闻帖子,所以会产生很多不良影响。 分拆社交媒体巨头在反垄断方面可能有意义,但这对政治言论无助 – 事实上,通过增加平台数量,可能会使行业更难以管理。

device 手段,策略,方法
libel 诽谤
ownership laws 所有权法律
rein in 控制
similarly 相似地;同样;也
accountable 形容词 负有责任的
transparent 透明的
monopolies 垄断
farm out 外包
independent outfits 独立机构
moderate 动词 缓和,减轻
moreover 而且
deem 动词 认为
transparency 名词 透明度,透明
malign influence 不良的影响
carelessly 草率地
barely credible news posts 几乎不可信的新闻报道
accountable for 对…应负责任
a handful of一把,少数、几个、不多

There are other remedies. The social-media companies should adjust their sites to make clearer if a post comes from a friend or a trusted source. They could accompany the sharing of posts with reminders of the harm from misinformation. Bots are often used to amplify political messages. Twitter could disallow the worst—or mark them as such. Most powerfully, they could adapt their algorithms to put clickbait lower down the feed. Because these changes cut against a businessmodel designed to monopolise attention, they may well have to be imposed by law or by a regulator.
Social media are being abused. But, with a will, society can harness them and revive that early dream of enlightenment. The stakes for liberal democracy could hardly be higher.
还有其他的补救措施。如果帖子来自朋友或信任来源,那么社交媒体公司应调整其网站以使其更清晰。机器人通常用来放大政治信息。 Twitter可能不会允许最糟糕的事情发生 – 或者标记它们。最强大的功能,他们可以调整他们的算法。由于这些变化违背了旨在垄断注意力的商业模式,它们可能不得不由法律或监管机构施加。 社交媒体正在被滥用。 但是,社会可以利用它们并恢复启蒙的早期梦想。

remedies 补救措施
amplify 放大
harness 利用


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