Chinese tech giants including Alibaba, Tencent and ByteDance have submitted details to a state regulator of algorithms used in some of their products in an unprecedented move, as officials tighten oversight of the sector.
The country’s Internet watchdog on Friday published a list of 30 algorithms that companies use to gather information about users and promote content or services.
Algorithms used by tech companies are closely guarded globally, but in March China implemented rules obliging companies to disclose these tools as concerns grow about data misuse. .
Beijing has exerted a massive dominance over the tech sector in recent years, which saw years of fledgling development and the emergence of supersized monopolies before regulators stepped in.
Angela Zhang, associate professor of law at the University of Hong Kong, said the rules issued in March require companies to ensure they do not engage in activities that could encourage national security, social stability or over-indulgence.
“These service providers need to conduct regular self-assessments to ensure compliance and file their records with the relevant authority,” he told AFP.
The latest regulations are aimed at anything from China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo to delivery service Meituan and ByteDance’s short video app Douyin.
March’s rules say the rules apply to domestic service providers, meaning Douyin’s international cousin TikTok, which operates outside of China, will not have to share information.
The list, published Friday by China’s Cyberspace Administration, summarizes how the algorithms work and what products they are used for.
Alibaba’s popular e-commerce platform Taobao, for example, has an algorithm that recommends products based on users’ browsing and search history, while Douyin makes recommendations based on factors such as how long users engage with content. lives.
Cybersecurity authorities work with the Departments of Public Security and Market Supervision to conduct security assessments of algorithms used for recommendation services and may call for improvements.
The regulations also state that service providers should not use algorithms to encourage addiction among minors or determine transaction prices based on users’ habits.
Offenders can be warned, fined or killed along with other punishments.
The extent to which tech firms disclose their software to regulators is unclear.
“At this point, it does not appear that Chinese data regulators have made explicit requirements on these tech firms to change their algorithms. Rather, regulators are probably in the information collection stage,” Zhang said.