首页  | 专栏作家

Fast and loose?不负责任

中国日报网 2021-07-30 11:16


Reader question:

Please explain “fast and loose”, as in: The company had been “fast and loose” with user data in other ways as well.

My comments:

This suggests that the company, whatever that is, had been using user data to its advantage in a deceitful way.

That’s what “fast and loose” implies here.

“Fast and loose” is a trick game in which a magician or trickster ties a rope to a stick. Then he pulls at one end of the noose or knot and the rope loosens and breaks free. Seemingly, the rope is fast, as in fastened and secure, but it’s readily loose, as in loosened and free.

The rope and stick is now fast, now loose. That’s the trick of the game.

Due to the trickery involved, playing fast and loose becomes synonymous with playing a game with cunning and trickery.

Metaphorically speaking, if you play fast and loose, you’re probably cheating and being dishonest, reckless and irresponsible.

In our example, the company that had been “fast and loose” with user data had been using that data in a deceitful way, perhaps unlawfully.

Perhaps immorally as well.

That’s the basic idea.

Now, media examples of situations in which people play or are accused of playing fast and loose:

1. Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports is one of the sharper knives in the drawer of The Other Gig and, it being college football season and all, he’s been spending a lot of time in places like Michigan and Ohio. He’s been gently badgering me on one particular topic—OK, he’s done everything except parachute into my backyard to harangue me on the subject—and, given the results of this new Detroit Free Press poll showing that Hillary Rodham Clinton’s having regained a double-digit lead in Michigan, and a series of different surveys showing HRC has gained ground in Ohio, it may now be time to give the Wetzel his due.

It is now set in the narrative cement that Donald Trump made his bones with white working-class voters due to his having said the right things about trade and unemployment. (He’s also been saying other things to appeal to other enthusiasms of the same audience, as Ana Marie Cox points out here, but that’s slightly beside the point in this particular discussion.) But what Wetzel keeps harping on is that, as part of his drum-beating against trade, Trump has been positively killing the American auto industry, which is still less than a decade removed from death’s door.

For example, he’s been pounding Ford for opening a plant in Mexico, but he’s only telling half that story. El Caudillo del Mar-A-Lago endlessly bellows about how Ford is taking American jobs across the southern border. In fact, one division of Ford will be opening up in Mexico, but no jobs will be lost because the workers at those plants will still be employed producing two new products for the Ford line. Both Bill Ford, the CEO of the eponymous company, and the United Auto Workers agree that Trump has been fast and loose with the truth on this one.

And some of the rank-and-file is getting pissed as well, as the Freep found recently.

For many Americans, Ford, founder of the moving assembly line and famed $5-a-day wages for its early 20th-Century workers, remains an iconic brand from the nation's Motor City. Its F-150 pickup has been the nation’s best-selling vehicle for more than three decades. But some of its workers, executives and local supporters are left wondering whether Trump understands the global pressures on today's auto industry. They also question whether he has missed the recent gains made by American autoworkers who survived the economic earthquake created by the 2009 bankruptcies of two of Detroit's Big Three companies. Armed with private financing and federal loans, Ford was the only one that did not accept a government-funded bailout… “I think Trump needs to get his facts straight,” said Bill Johnson, plant chairman for UAW Local 900, which represents workers at the Wayne plant. “He is absolutely beating up on Ford for doing what everybody else has already done.” Johnson was at the plant in March 2011 when Gov. Rick Snyder and Mulally celebrated an overhaul that transformed it from a truck plant that built SUVs to a plant that could make a profit producing small cars. “We hate to see the products go to Mexico, but with the Ranger and the Bronco coming to Michigan Assembly that absolutely secures the future for our people a lot more than the Focus does,” Johnson said.

- The Truth About One of Trump’s Biggest Lies, by Charles P. Pierce, October 6, 2016.

2. Google, Facebook and Twitter are private companies, so the constitutional guarantees of free speech generally do not apply to people using their platforms. But it’s not that simple. The tech giants have been playing fast and loose with labeling themselves platforms v. publishers, trying to claim protections from both of them.

As publishers, the companies can restrict speech on their platforms as they see fit. Their editorial decisions (not those of their customers) are protected by the First Amendment. However, they are open to lawsuits over the content.

As a platform, or provider of a computer service, a company cannot be liable for content users post on their sites. This is from Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

When Facebook was sued by the app startup Six4Three, the tech giant’s lawyers claimed it was a publisher. Six4Three accused Facebook of maliciously removing app developers’ access to friends’ data, forcing it out of business. Facebook claimed it was acting as a publisher and was allowed discretion of what to permit. But in that same case, Facebook asserted that it was a platform and not liable for users’ content.

The big tech giants act as publishers when they weed out offensive content, much like a news publication would. A true platform does not engage in these kinds of restraints. For example, a PC is a platform. You can do whatever you want on your PC and no one is going to censor you.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted to Congress that the company is “responsible for the content” on its platform. “We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake,” he said. “It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”

- Big Tech Trying to Have it Both Ways as Platform and Publisher, Townhall.com, May 6, 2019.

3. The health ramifications of a wedding held near Millinocket, Maine, on Aug. 7 launched the state’s widest-ranging coronavirus outbreak to date, leaving one person dead and precipitating case clusters in a rehabilitation center and in a jail.

As of Thursday, health officials had linked 87 cases of COVID-19 to the reception held at the Big Moose Inn, located on unorganized territory on Millinocket Lake, approximately 80 miles north of Bangor, according to a state health inspector’s report reviewed by The Bangor Daily News.

Thirty wedding guests have confirmed cases of the virus, and 35 more people fell ill after having direct contact with attendees. An additional 22 people contracted it either through direct or indirect exposure to that second wave, the newspaper reports.


Contact tracing typically focuses on people who spent at least 15 minutes with an infected individual within a distance of six feet or less, the Press Herald reports.

Rick Zaker, a high school teacher from Hudson, New Hampshire, who was staying at the inn that weekend, said he left his contact information and was told he would be called if there was an outbreak, according to the news outlet.

He wasn’t.

“My wife and I didn’t get sick, we’re fortunate,” he told the newspaper. “But what about all these other people who got sick because (the inn’s managers) were irresponsible and marginalized the risk involved?”

Zaker, who watched the wedding guests while he ate dinner at the inn’s bar and grill, said the reception was “very crowded,” adding that he saw “maybe one or two people wearing a mask.”

“It seems like they were pretty irresponsible,” he said. “They played fast and loose with a lot of people’s safety.

87 COVID-19 cases and 1 death are linked to a Maine wedding, Boston.com, August 28, 2020.



About the author:


Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.


Stop gap? 权宜之计


Twist and turn? 迂回曲折


Everything came unstuck? 崩了