Alibaba, Tencent Among Chinese Tech Giants Disclosing Algorithm Details to Domestic Regulators

The Chinese Communist Party continues to curb the power and influence of homegrown tech companies in its ongoing pursuit to clean up the internet.

Credit: Wikicommons (via Hong Kong Free Press)

The likes of e-commerce juggernaut Alibaba and gaming titan Tencent have recently disclosed details about their respective algorithms to local regulators, as CNBC reports. The Cyberspace Administration of China, the central internet authority in the country, last week reportedly already made over 30 algorithms public, which included a description of their purpose and how they operate.


The move is part of a new law passed in March that's supposed to govern how tech companies use recommendation algorithms. Under this law, these companies are required to file details about their algorithms in a registry created by the government. They are also required to obtain licences to provide news services and give their users the option to opt-out of recommendation algorithms if they want to.


Details in the filing leave much to be desired though, according to the report. For example, Bytedance's filing for Douyin, the Chinese equivalent of TikTok, only mentions how videos and graphics are recommended based on behavioural data like clicks and likes.


While this brief description seemingly captures the essence of how the algorithm operates, it fails to get into the complexities of these systems behind the scenes, which is usually what drives heated topics of debate. The report does concede that it’s unclear how much insight the regulators have had access to, so there’s a chance that they could know more than they’re letting on.

Credit: Freedom House

Still, when it comes to internet governance, the new law is considered unprecedented as tech companies usually keep details regarding their algorithms under lock and key. These systems are among their most important assets and are critical in their business operations, so it would only make sense financially that they keep it a highly-guarded secret. However, these companies likely had no choice but to comply, given how the Chinese government has been extra tough on them in recent years.


Both the U.S. and European Union have yet to introduce a similar law.

 
  • E-commerce juggernaut Alibaba and gaming titan Tencent are among the tech giants that have recently disclosed details about their respective algorithms to local regulators in compliance with a new law.

  • Under this law, these companies are required to file details about their algorithms in a registry created by the government.

  • They are also required to obtain licences to provide news services and give their users the option to opt-out of recommendation algorithms if they want to.

  • The Cyberspace Administration of China, the central internet authority in the country, last week reportedly already made over 30 algorithms public, which included a description of their purpose and how they operate.

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