The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has published a list of 30 apps, whose operators submitted details of recommendation algorithms.
Chinese tech giants – including Alibaba Group Holding, ByteDance and Tencent Holdings – have submitted information on the algorithms of some of their most popular apps, the country’s top internet watchdog said on Friday.
CAC published a list of 30 apps – including six from Alibaba, one from ByteDance, two from Tencent and three from Baidu – whose operators handed in details of their recommendation algorithms for customising content feed and search results.
The list includes some of the country’s most popular internet services, such as Tencent’s ubiquitous multipurpose app WeChat, which has nearly 1.3 billion users, as well as Alibaba’s Taobao and Tmall marketplaces, Douyin and Kuaishou short video platforms, Weibo microblogging service, Meituan food delivery service, etc. The CAC said it would update the list as more submissions come in.
According to the CAC, the submissions stemmed from the new algorithm regulation, which took effect in March, directing app developers to allow consumers to decline personalised recommendations generated by their services. Entered into force on March 1 this year, the Regulation of algorithmic recommendations in the provision of Internet information services requires operators to enter into the system data on the algorithms used: the name, type, and scope of application.
The BRICS Competition Centre expert Maria Belyaeva notes:
"There is no doubt that the requirements will be enforced effectively: Compliance relates to the vital interests of digital platforms. Notice how Internet companies are responding to new regulatory measures or fines: There has never been a case where anyone has protested. On the contrary, they gratefully accept the innovations and are committed to providing the necessary assistance".
According to the expert, the Chinese authorities will soon accumulate a rich database on the functioning of all "powerful" algorithms.
"Interestingly, according to the Regulations, the requirement to put algorithms on record applies only to providers "related to public opinion platforms or capable of mobilizing the public" - this clearly expresses the "social" aspect of Chinese regulation, whose ultimate goal is not to streamline the industry as such, but to achieve public order and stability."
- says Maria Belyaeva.
Recommendation algorithms, which leverage artificial intelligence technology and big data to tailor services to the individual needs of users, have influenced internet trends and online discussions in China, home to the world’s largest netizen population, as well as the biggest markets for e-commerce, video games and smartphones.
While algorithm technology has helped promote economic development and broader internet use in the country, it has also caused problems, such as when some internet companies use data about their customers to charge extra fees.