China internet watchdog issues draft guidelines for internet recommendation algorithms
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China internet watchdog issues draft guidelines for internet recommendation algorithms

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), China’s top internet watchdog, on Friday published a 30-point draft guideline which contained proposals forbidding companies from deploying algorithms that “encourage addiction or high consumption” and endanger national security or disrupt the public order.

The draft guidelines, which aims to “safeguard national security and social public interests, protect the legitimate rights and interests of citizens, legal persons, and other organizations, and to promote the healthy development of Internet information services”, mandate internet companies using algorithm recommendation services to “respect social ethics and ethics, abide by business ethics and professional ethics, and follow the principles of fairness, openness, transparency, scientific rationality, and honesty.”

The draft guidelines also propose a more user-friendly mechanism that would oblige algorithm recommendation service providers to offer internet users with an option to turn off algorithm recommendation services, following which the provider would have to refrain from continuing to provide related services. The draft further indicated that that algorithm recommendation service providers must hold “mainstream value” and “actively spread positive energy”, while preventing the spread of information that violates laws and regulations. In particular, it directed that algorithms must not be used to encourage addiction and excessive spending.

The internet watchdog’s crackdown follows criticisms by Chinese Consumer groups and the State media who have criticized internet companies for abusing personal data and coercing people into purchases and promotions, and have called for their regulation.

The guidelines are considered as part of a broader crackdown on China’s big tech and are expected to particularly affect companies such as Alibaba Group, Didi Global, and TikTok owner ByteDance who use such algorithms to predict user preferences and make recommendations, and who were already facing scrutiny from Chinese State authorities on a variety of issues.

The draft guidelines are open for public consultation until 26 September 2021.