Chinese tech companies now have to tell users about their algorithms


A new set of Chinese regulations aimed at restricting tech companies’ usage of algorithmic recommendations are effective starting Tuesday. The new regulations could shape the global algorithm regulatory landscape.

The regulations stipulate that tech companies have to inform users “in a conspicuous way” if algorithms are being used to push content to them. Users reportedly will be allowed to opt out of being targeted with algorithmic recommendations.

There are also provisions against generating and aggregating fake news and against exploiting gig workers, like delivery drivers, by using algorithms.

Despite rules that one would expect to be included in an algorithm policy from Beijing, like tightening online content control, “the fact that China came out and did that before the rest of the world did was quite groundbreaking,” Kendra Schaefer, partner and head of Tech Policy Research at Trivium China, said on a panel in January.

China’s algorithm rules drew inspiration from the EU AI Act, and liberal-minded scholars at the prestigious Tsinghua University and Nankai University were involved in advising senior Chinese leaders to be open-minded about emerging AI technology.

“Whether it will follow EU’s AI regulatory pattern to impose a conformity assessment regime to ensure algorithm compliance or pivot to the data innovation narrative and focus legal reform efforts on exploring the rights to use, control and profit from data,” said Xiaomeng Lu, a director in Eurasia Group’s geo-technology practice, “this policy area will become the next battleground for the pull and push between Big Tech and big government in China.”

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