How Facebook and Google threaten public health and democracy
In an interview this week with Axios, Facebook’s original president, Sean Parker, admitted that the company intentionally sought to addict users and expressed regret at the damage being inflicted on children.
inflict / ɪnˈflɪkt / v. ~ sth (on sb) cause (a blow, penalty, etc) to be suffered (by sb) 使（某人）遭受（打击﹑ 惩罚等）
This admission, by one of the architects of Facebook, comes on the heels of last week’s hearings by Congressional committees about Russian interference in the 2016 election, where the general counsels of Facebook, Alphabet (parent of Google and YouTube), and Twitter attempted to deflect responsibility for manipulation of their platforms.
上周，美国国会数个委员会就俄罗斯干预2016年美国大选进行了听证会。脸书、推特(Twitter)以及谷歌与 YouTube 的母公司 Alphabet 的总法律顾问试图在会上推卸责任，否认对社交媒体平台进行操纵。但紧接着，脸书的元老之一就坦白了社交媒体故意让用户上瘾的事实。
come on the heels of : If something comes on the heels of something, it follows very soon after it.
The term “addiction” is no exaggeration. The average consumer checks his or her smartphone 150 times a day, making more than 2000 swipes and touches. The applications they use most frequently are owned by Facebook and Alphabet, and the usage of those products is still increasing.
In terms of scale, Facebook and YouTube are similar to Christianity and Islam respectively. More than 2 billion people use Facebook every month, 1.3 billion check in every day. More than 1.5 billion people use YouTube. Other services owned by these companies also have user populations of 1 billion or more.
Facebook and Alphabet are huge because users are willing to trade privacy and openness for “convenient and free.” Content creators resisted at first, but user demand forced them to surrender control and profits to Facebook and Alphabet.
The sad truth is that Facebook and Alphabet have behaved irresponsibly in the pursuit of massive profits. They have consciously combined persuasive techniques developed by propagandists and the gambling industry with technology in ways that threaten public health and democracy. The issue, however, is not social networking or search. It is advertising business models. Let me explain.
From the earliest days of tabloid newspapers, publishers realized the power of exploiting human emotions. To win a battle for attention, publishers must give users “what they want,” content that appeals to emotions, rather than intellect. Substance cannot compete with sensation, which must be amplified constantly, lest consumers get distracted and move on.
tabloid : a newspaper this size concentrating on sensational and lurid news, usually heavily illustrated. 专门报道耸人听闻消息的小画报
“If it bleeds, it leads” has guided editorial choices for more than 150 years, but has only become a threat to society in the past decade, since the introduction of smartphones. Media delivery platforms like newspapers, television, books, and even computers are persuasive, but people only engage with them for a few hours each day and every person receives the same content.
Today’s battle for attention is not a fair fight. Every competitor exploits the same techniques, but Facebook and Alphabet have prohibitive advantages: personalization and smartphones. Unlike older media, Facebook and Alphabet know essentially everything about their users, tracking them everywhere they go on the web and often beyond.
但如今，争夺关注的战役并不公平。虽然参与争夺的每一方吸引用户的手段都是一样的，但脸书与 Alphabet 有着其他平台无法比拟的优势：个性化定制与智能手机。与传统媒体不同，这两家公司基本掌握了用户的所有信息。只要用户一接入网络，就能知道他们的踪迹，且两家公司所做的，往往不止是追踪而已。
prohibitive / proˋhɪbɪtɪv / adj (of prices, etc) so high that one cannot afford to buy. （指价格等）高得买不起的
By making every experience free and easy, Facebook and Alphabet became gatekeepers on the internet, giving them levels of control and profitability previously unknown in media. They exploit data to customize each user’s experience and siphon profits from content creators. Thanks to smartphones, the battle for attention now takes place on a single platform that is available every waking moment. Competitors to Facebook and Alphabet do not have a prayer.
脸书和 Alphabet 把一切体验变得免费而又易于操作，从而把控了互联网的流量入口。其权力之大、利润之高，是媒体界前所未闻的。他们利用数据来给每位用户打造个性化的使用体验，又从内容创造者那里抽取利润。由于智能手机的出现，争夺关注的战役如今转移到了一个可以时时刻刻随身而行的单一平台上。脸书和 Aphabet 的竞争对手已经不抱希望了。
prayer [prer] You can refer to a strong hope that you have as your prayer. 祈祷
Facebook and Alphabet monetize content through advertising that is targeted more precisely than has ever been possible before. The platforms create “filter bubbles” around each user, confirming pre-existing beliefs and often creating the illusion that everyone shares the same views. Platforms do this because it is profitable. The downside of filter bubbles is that beliefs become more rigid and extreme. Users are less open to new ideas and even to facts.
脸书和 Aphabet 通过空前精准的广告投放把内容变现。这两大平台发明了一种“信息过滤器”，安插在每个用户身边，以此让用户对先前已有的观念更为确信，而这往往会给他们造成错觉，以为每个人的观点都是如此。平台这样做是因为有利可图，但信息过滤器的弊端在于：人们的信念变得更为顽固和极端。用户对新思想的开放程度降低了，甚至对事实也不太愿意接受了。
monetize [‘mʌnəˌtaɪz] give legal value to or establish as the legal tender of a country. 把……定位货币；把……转换为现金
Of the millions of pieces of content that Facebook can show each user at a given time, they choose the handful most likely to maximize profits. If it were not for the advertising business model, Facebook might choose content that informs, inspires, or enriches users. Instead, the user experience on Facebook is dominated by appeals to fear and anger. This would be bad enough, but reality is worse.
Any advertiser can get access to any Facebook user over unsupervised, automated systems. Five million advertisers do so every month. The Russians took advantage of this first to sow discord among Americans and then to interfere in the 2016 election. Other bad actors exploited Facebook in other areas. One company surveilled protest groups and marketed that data to police departments.
bad actor : bad person, one that behaves badly. 捣蛋鬼，坏人，表现恶劣的人
Financial institutions were investigated for using Facebook advertising tools to discriminate on the basis of race. Facebook is not the only problem. Alphabet provides Chromebooks to elementary schools with the objective of capturing the attention, and perhaps even behavioral data, about children. At the same time, Alphabet’s YouTube Kids is a site filled with inappropriate content that creates addiction in children far too young to resist.
金融机构也因为利用脸书的广告工具开展种族歧视的商业行为而受到调查。但脸书不是唯一的问题所在。Alphabet 为小学提供三星的 Chromebook 笔记本电脑，目的是吸引儿童的注意力，甚至可能获取他们的行为数据。同时，Aplhabet旗下的儿童网站YouTube Kid 充斥着少儿不宜的内容，且很容易让孩子上瘾，因为他们年纪尚幼，根本没有抵抗能力。
While optimizing for profit is understandable and generally appropriate, Facebook and Alphabet have caused harm that requires serious discussion and remediation.
Facebook and Alphabet assert they are not media companies and therefore are not responsible for what third parties do on their platforms. While that position might be reasonable from start-ups, it is not appropriate from companies who control seven of the top 10 platforms on the internet and exhibit the behaviors of monopolies.
脸书和 Alphabet 声称自己不是媒体公司，因此不必为第三方在平台上的所作所为承担责任。这种立场放在初创公司上或许还能站住脚，但从两家如此之大的公司口里说出来，就很不合适了。要知道，在互联网排名前十的平台中，这两家公司就控制了七家，而且他们已经做出了具有垄断性质的行为。
start-up [ˈstɑrtˌʌp] A start-up company is a small business that has recently been started by someone. 新成立的、刚创办的公司
Society regulates products that create addiction. We have laws to prevent discrimination and election manipulation. None of these regulations and laws has yet been applied to Facebook and Google. The time has come.