In an unusual move as authorities tighten regulation of the industry, Chinese internet giants including Alibaba, Tencent, and ByteDance have provided information to a state regulator about algorithms employed in some of their products.
The nation’s internet watchdog published a list of 30 algorithms on Friday that businesses use to compile user data and market products or services.
Although algorithms employed by digital corporations are highly guarded globally, China implemented legislation in March requiring companies to reveal these tools as worries about data exploitation grow.
Beijing has just started a comprehensive crackdown on the tech industry, which experienced years of unchecked growth and the emergence of enormous monopolies before regulators intervened.
According to Angela Zhang, an associate professor of law at the University of Hong Kong, the regulations announced in March mandate that businesses guarantee they won’t take part in activities that could endanger social stability, the national security of their country, or promote excessive consumption.
She told AFP that in order to comply, “it requires these service providers to do frequent self-assessments and to file their record with the appropriate body.”
The most recent laws include Weibo, a Chinese platform akin to Twitter, Meituan, a delivery business, and Douyin, a short-form video app from ByteDance as its targets.
Since domestic service providers are covered by the March legislation, TikTok, the foreign relative of Douyin that operates outside of China, would not be required to exchange information.
The Cyberspace Administration of China’s list, which was released on Friday, gives a brief explanation of how the algorithms function and the items they are employed in.
For instance, the well-known e-commerce site Taobao from Alibaba uses an algorithm to suggest products based on users’ browsing and search history, whereas Douyin bases its suggestions on things like how long a user spends interacting with content.
Cyberspace authorities analyze the security of the algorithms used for recommendation services in collaboration with public security and market oversight departments and may request corrections.
The rules also prohibit service providers from using algorithms to promote addiction in young people or set transaction prices depending on user behavior.
Offenders may get a warning, a fee, or other sanctions.
It’s unclear to what degree tech companies have informed regulators about their software.
It appears that Chinese data officials have not yet made it clear that these tech companies must modify their algorithms. Instead, Zhang argued that the regulators are likely in the information gathering stage.