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Alibaba, ByteDance share algorithm details with Chinese regulator

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Alibaba, ByteDance share algorithm details with Chinese regulator

In an unprecedented move, Alibaba, Tencent and ByteDance, the parent company of Douyin, and other Chinese tech giants have handed over detailed information on the algorithms of online roadshows for some of their services to government regulator, Cyberspace Administration of China.

The online businesses that apply these rules range from Weibo to takeaway platforms Meituan and Douyin.

The extent to which tech firms have disclosed their software to regulators remains unclear.
Algorithms used by tech companies are closely guarded globally but in March China rolled out regulations obliging firms to disclose these tools as concerns grow about data misuse.

Beijing has in recent years embarked on a wide-ranging clampdown on the tech sector, which saw years of runaway growth and the emergence of supersized monopolies before regulators stepped in.

The new rules require companies to ensure they will not engage in activities that may threaten national security, social stability or encourage over-indulgence, said Angela Zhang, associate professor of law at the University of Hong Kong.

The list published on Friday by the Cyberspace Administration of China briefly describes how the algorithms work and which 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 like how long a user engages with content.

Cyberspace authorities work with public security and market supervision departments to carry out security assessments of the algorithms used for recommendation services and may ask for rectifications.

The regulations also state that service providers are not to use algorithms to encourage addiction among minors or determine transaction prices based on the habits of users.
Offenders may be warned, fined or hit with other penalties. ###.