Quaint prudishness, excessive enforcement of copyright, unneeded damage to our reputations: algorithmic gatekeeping is exacting a high toll on our public life. Instead of treating algorithms as a natural, objective reflection of reality, we must take them apart and closely examine each line of code. Can we do it without hurting Silicon Valley’s business model? The world of finance, facing a similar problem, offers a clue. After several disasters caused by algorithmic trading earlier this year, authorities in Hong Kong and Australia drafted proposals to establish regular independent audits of the design, development and modifications of computer systems used in such trades. Why couldn’t auditors do the same to Google?

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