China sets new rules for internet algorithms

China on Friday announced new draft guidelines to regulate the algorithms used by tech companies to make recommendations to users.

Algorithms must not promote content “endangering national security, disrupting economic and social order or infringing on the legitimate rights and interests of others,” according to the rules published by China’s Cyberspace Administration.

Also, users must not be shown discriminatory prices based on their past behaviour and must have the option to turn off recommendations, the rules said. Furthermore, algorithms should not be used to create fake user accounts.

The internet regulator said the rules are part of efforts to protect the privacy and data security of Chinese users.

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Algorithms should ‘actively spread positive energy’

Internet companies worldwide use algorithms to predict consumer behavior and preferences to make recommendations that are tailored to their users’ preferences.

These algorithms are key to the success of popular e-commerce, ride-hailing and social media apps used in China like Alibaba, and Douyin.

But these tech firms have faced criticism for allowing their algorithms to promote content that is illegal or deemed inappropriate by state censors.

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The programs should not induce “bad habits” in minors and must not push them to be “addicted to the internet,” the new rules say.

Instead, they should “actively spread positive energy” and “adhere to mainstream values.”

China’s tech crackdown continues

The new regulations come at a time when the Chinese government has been going after tech companies to investigate issues ranging from monopolistic behavior to consumer privacy.

In recent months, authorities have imposed fines on shopping and music streaming apps for monopolistic behavior. They have also tightened protections for delivery app drivers.

The Chinese government is also planning to block tech firms with large amounts of sensitive user data from listing abroad, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

China’s stock market regulator has proposed targeting tech firms eying initial public offerings, even via a legal loophole that allows them to use a unit registered abroad, the newspaper said, citing sources familiar with the matter.

The move will make it tougher for Chinese businesses to raise cash in the lucrative US markets.

The clampdown and the tightening regulations sparked a major sell-off in tech firms’ shares and has left global investors reeling.

sri/rt (Reuters, AFP)