Ethics reward system can help clean up the web

In May 2021, Twitter user capohai shared Screenshot of a Google search for “what do terrorists wear on their heads”, which, as a first result, returned the Palestinian keffiyeh scarf. At the same time, The French Senate had just voted to ban women under the age of 18 from wearing the headscarf Publicly, President Macron’s political party LREM withdrew support from the candidate Sarah Zamahi For wearing a headscarf in a campaign ad. How many other people have asked the same question on Google and considered its answer as proof of their preconceived ideas or an objective statement of truth? How many others were affected by the results?

Anger over Google’s implicit equation between Palestinians, hijabs and terrorists has erupted from social media in the newsBut when doing the same research today, the keffiyeh remains the first result.

It makes sense that capohai has turned to Twitter because one of the only options for most people noticing the unethical behavior of tech companies — privacy violations, promoting hate speech and misinformation, biased behavior, and more — is to post about it on social media. But as this example shows, the retribution model does not actually work to correct ethical violations.

Looking at the bigger picture, there have been calls for more regulation of the technology sector, which is absolutely necessary, but the legislation can take a long time to be implemented and is implemented and is generally insufficient to stop the unexpected ethical failures endemic to technology. Because algorithms tend to express our (bad) values ​​in unexpected ways that require constant updating and fine-tuning to correct them, regulations, no matter how extensively tense and written, cannot predict and stop all future problems.

But there is an option that does not depend on outrage on social media or new regulation. Technology companies are actually actually Prepared to deal with ethical issues on a large scale. They just need to adapt their current reward system.

Currently, hundreds of companies and organizations, large and small, are offering rewards ranging from thousands to millions of dollars to those who find loopholes in their code that malicious actors can exploit. The Google Rewards program covers apps sold through its Play Store. Apple, which only recently started a bounty program (with compensation of up to $1 million for the most dangerous kind of exploits) is taking a similar approach. in that Program notes, the company stated that it would “reward researchers who share critical issues with us and the techniques used to exploit them,” with public recognition and matching of reward payments donations to charities.

Imagine how better Silicon Valley’s products and services would be if these companies grouped ethics violations among “critical issues and the technologies used to exploit them” and began offering the corresponding rewards. After all, ethical violations can cause as many problems for the company and users as little leaked code. You won’t even need to change the language above. And the ethics reward program can use the rest of Apple’s rules, which include: 1) you must be the first to report it, 2) you must clearly explain and state what happened, 3) you can’t publicly disclose it before Apple gets a chance to fix it, and 4) You can get a bonus if the company inadvertently reintroduces a known issue in a new patch.

For users, the reward system will encourage people to search for and report ethics violations more quickly. For companies, this system can help them identify and address problems before they cause harm to more customers, generate negative press, and potentially destabilize governments. Sure, some companies may not be affected by negative press, losing customers, and reinforcing prejudices, but they are still likely to be driven by the long-term stability and reputation that such a program can create. Having a public record of thoughtful response to ethical issues in the past can also help a company if it wants to hire talented workers and grow in other markets and industries.

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