Monday, October 3, 2022
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Reports reveal Chinese internet giants hand algorithm data to government

Chinese internet behemoths Tencent, ByteDance, and Alibaba have for the first time disclosed specifics of their algorithms to China’s authorities.

The use of algorithms to determine what users see and how they view it is essential to the development of social media platforms.

Businesses guard them very carefully.

Despite pleas for increased transparency, Meta and Alphabet in the US have successfully maintained that they are trade secrets.

An article describing 30 algorithms was released by the Chinese Cyberspace Administration (CAC).

In an attempt to stop data exploitation, it said in a statement that its algorithm list will be routinely updated.

One of the stated algorithms comes from the Alibaba-owned e-commerce platform Taobao.

The Taobao algorithm “recommends items or services to consumers using their digital footprint and past search data,” according to the Mandarin translation of the paper.

According to reports, the ByteDance algorithm for Douyin, China’s equivalent of TikTok, determines user interests based on what users click, comment on, “like,” or “dislike.”

The data appeared “surface level,” according to Trivium China’s head of tech policy research, Kendra Schaefer.

She told the media, “It doesn’t seem like the algorithms themselves have been submitted.”

“Each of these algorithms has a registration number, allowing the CAC to concentrate enforcement activities on a specific algorithm. What is the next step to determine whether an algorithm is up to code?”

However, according to Zhai Wei, executive director of the East China University of Political Science and Law’s Competition Law Research Center, the material was “far more extensive than what was definitely released.”

He told Bloomberg, “That contains certain business secrets, which is not possible to be shared to the public.”

For over two years, Chinese policymakers have been strengthening their control over the technology industry.

In March, the nation passed new laws governing algorithms, allowing individuals to choose not to participate in the creation of suggestions.

A registration with the CAC was also necessary for algorithms that have “public opinion characteristics or social mobilization skills.”

It was “amazing,” according to Ms. Schaefer, that the registrations were made public.

I’m not aware of any other place in the world where you can go see a list of all the pieces of code that are effectively influencing the decisions that you make, such as what to buy or what material to watch, she added.

 

Bob Carlson
Bob Carlson
Bob Carlson is a business journalist, with over a decade of experience in the trenches of reporting up-to-date business news for publications all over the world. With a wealth of knowledge at his back, Bob strives to bring the most important insights into the business world for TheOptic daily.
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