匿名、審查與言論自由 (Anonymity, Censorship, and Freedom of Speech)

Huge epic laptop war

Image credit: “The Internet and Information War" by Ryccio (via Getty Images)

Recent events surrounding the assault of a Taiwanese legislator have brought the issue of domestic abuse into the national limelight. Most understand the necessity of ending domestic violence, so I will refrain from discussing that topic further here. However, I do hope to highlight the somewhat muted topic of information warfare and, more so, the issues of freedom of speech, privacy, and censorship on the popular bulletin board PTT.

近日圍繞立委的被施暴事件,使得家庭暴力(domestic violence)此一議題成為舉國關注的焦點。我相信多數人都認為,終止家庭暴力有其必要性,因此我並不打算討論此一議題。本文所欲指出者,是相對乏人問津的「資訊戰」(information warfare),尤其是PTT上的言論自由、隱私與審查等問題。

First, let’s begin with the macro conception of information warfare, which can be defined as a comprehensive attempt to control and influence every facet of the information supply chain, thereby influencing public opinion and behaviors. Use of the term has not yet been standardized. It’s used by some to specifically refer to electronic warfare, cyber warfare, and attacks on specific computer or communication networks.

首先,讓我們從廣義的資訊戰概念入手,它可被定義為控制及影響資訊供應鏈(information supply chain)各層面的廣泛嘗試,進而影響輿論與行為。此一術語尚未標準化,因為有些人將之視為電子戰(electronic warfare)、網路戰(cyber warfare)以及對特定電腦或通訊網路的攻擊。

Others use the term more broadly, referring to disinformation campaigns on television, radio, and the Internet. For the purpose of this discussion, information warfare can be defined as the manipulation of information trusted by a target without the target’s awareness. The manipulated target is then more likely to make decisions in the interest of the actor(s) conducting information warfare. This broad conception shows just how difficult it is to define information warfare and, therefore, how to resist it. We know that something just doesn’t feel right, but we can’t seem to quite put our fingers on it. Is information warfare just the propagation of uncomfortable truth or hate speech? Or, is it just the coordinated release of malicious information by trolls or cyberbullies?  It certainly is not clear what information is, or when it begins or ends, but now at least, we have some awareness and a general conception of the term.

有些人則更廣泛地使用此一術語,諸如電視、廣播以及網路上虛假資訊的宣傳活動。 為便於本文討論,讓我們將其定義為——在受眾不知情的情況下,受眾信任已遭操弄的資訊,使受眾作出違背自身利益的決定,而此一決定卻符合資訊戰實施者的利益。此一寬泛的定義表明,將一項行動定義為資訊戰有多麼困難,而這恰好是資訊戰有效的原因:當你無法完全解釋某事,便難以與之相抗。你知道有些事不太對勁,但你能說出個所以然來嗎?資訊戰只是充斥著令人不安的真相或仇恨言論嗎?抑或它只是助長惡意資訊的協同傳播?因此,目前尚不清楚資訊傳播與資訊戰的界線 (它何時開始或何時結束),但至少我們已意識到它,並對此一術語有了基本的認識。

In the case of Taiwan, information warfare or campaigns are conducted by “cyber or digital warriors" of “online/cyber/internet armies" working for either international or domestic actors—some coordinated and sponsored, others doing it on their own for a quick buck. As can be seen lately, one of their more popular battlegrounds is the PTT Bulletin Board System. Due partly to the board’s non-commercial nature, anonymity, and relative lack of censorship—though registration and the right to post have been more difficult—the board is an immensely popular designation for netizens to share personal thoughts and recommendations technical know-how. There have even been posts revealing crime and corruption and some spearheading civil movements.

以臺灣為例,資訊戰或宣傳戰(campaigns)是由為國際或國內組織工作的「網軍」(“cyber or digital warriors” of “online/cyber/internet armies”)所發動——有些是協同與被資助的,有些則是為了賺快錢的散戶。最近不難看出,更受他們青睞的戰場之一是PTT實業坊。部分原因在於PTT的非商業性質、匿名性以及相對缺乏審查制度——儘管註冊與發帖已更加困難。PTT之所以深受歡迎,乃因其為網民(netizens)分享個人觀點、建議與技術專門知識(technical know-how)的地方。甚至有些帖子揭露了犯罪與腐敗,並帶頭開展了公民運動(spearheaded civil movements)。

Unfortunately, the anonymity the board offers also makes it the ideal battleground for political and commercial actors of all levels and factions seeking to sway public. There are also those who hide behind anonymity and claims of free speech to purposely slander, harm and bully others for self-interest or malicious pleasure, though these are typically uncoordinated attacks and should not be classified as information warfare. Regardless of the purpose, anonymity and free speech are used as a free pass for possible crime and harm in posting.

不幸的是,PTT所提供的匿名性也使之成為各層級、各派系政商人士的理想戰場,進而達到帶風向的目的。還有一些人藏身於匿名以及言論自由的背後,為了自身利益或惡趣味(malicious pleasure)而故意誹謗、傷害與霸凌他人——即便這些行為並非協作性的攻擊,也不該歸屬於資訊戰。但無論目的為何,匿名與言論自由容為發布犯罪及有害帖子的免死金牌。

Moderators do their best to keep content in check using board rules, but it’s highly unlikely they are able to steer clear of personal relationships, biases, and self-interest when interpreting board rules and making moderation decisions. The problem is that when one or two moderators control each board, absolute power corrupts…absolutely. Sound decisions on the release of information typically require, at the very least, a group of decision-makers, input from stakeholders, and a system of checks and balances. Compounding the problem is the lack of accountability measures. While moderators can delete posts and ban unethical posters, they have no real way to counter the sale and use of fake accounts. Banned users can purchase another account, and deletion is of little use once sensitive information has been released on the web.

管理員會根據版規來審核內容,但在解讀版規與作出適當決定時,很難將個人關係、偏見、自身利益與之區分開來。絕對的權力絕對的腐化(Absolute power corrupts absolutely)。也就是說,需要一組聽取利害關係者意見的決策人士以及制衡的系統,方能就發布對他人生活產生重大影響的資訊作出決定。即便管理員可以刪帖並封鎖不當的使用者,但他們並沒有真正有效的方式來打擊假帳號的販售與使用。被禁的用戶可以購買另一個帳號,而只要敏感資訊在網路上一經發布,刪帖也無濟於事。

Considering all its pros and cons and taking into account past cases, the question to consider here is not whether PTT is good or bad or to decide between censorship and free speech. “Socially organized activity cannot occur without censorship and the question therefore is not ‘censorship or free speech’ but censorship in what form, by whom, and in whose interest?" (Peterson & Hutchinson, 1999, xiii-xiv).

考慮到所有的優缺點,並結合過去有關PTT的案例,我希望我們所能慮及者不該只是PTT是好是壞,或是審查制度與言論自由的對立。「沒有審查制度就不可能會有社會組織的活動,因此問題並非『審查制度或言論自由』,而是以何種形式、由誰審查,以及捍衛了誰的利益?」(Peterson & Hutchinson, 1999, xiii-xiv)。

The questions of anonymity, censorship, and freedom do not have yes or no answers as they involve delicate tensions between security, privacy, freedom, equity, and accountability. What one should consider is not whether PTT should eliminate any of these values, but how it can balance them. The responsibility also falls on users and readers. We must consider the motivations behind each post every time we read or comment. In whose interest is the post written, and what harm can it do? What are the forces behind each post? What is considered “truth," and what is “disinformation"? Coming to an answer is never simple, but perhaps the deliberation of these questions will help us reconsider how information can be shared and perceived. Maybe we cannot stop the flow of disinformation, but at the very least, we can stay vigilant, be it information warfare or malicious personal attacks.

有關匿名、審查與自由的問題絕對不是「是非題」,因為它們涉及了安全、隱私、自由、公平與責任間的微妙張力(delicate tensions)。 我們所需考量者並非PTT應否消除這些價值,而是PTT該「如何」平衡它們。部分責任也落在用戶與讀者身上。每當我們瀏覽、發帖或評論時,也必須考慮每則帖子背後的動機。這篇文章是為了誰的利益而寫,它將造成怎樣的傷害?在其可觸及的範圍內,暗藏於影響力背後的力量與動機又是什麼?什麼才是真相,什麼才是假訊息?得出答案絕非易事,但也許對這些問題進行思辨,將有助於PTT管理員以及利害關係者重新思考,該如何分享與理解資訊。也許我們無法阻止假資訊的流通,但至少我們能夠對資訊戰以及惡意的人身攻擊保持警覺。

What is fake news?
圖片出處: https://bit.ly/3EsLkl7


Glenn, J. (1989). Chapter 9 Defense, Future Mind, Acropolis Books, Washington, DC.

Hutchinson, A. C., & Petersen, K. (1999). Interpreting censorship in Canada. University of Toronto Press.



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