Beijing misfires opening salvo at algorithms

Computer motherboard with letters “China Designed” is seen in this illustration taken, December 1, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration – RC2U5R9JUBSP

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HONG KONG, Jan 5 (Reuters Breakingviews) – It’s Beijing 0, artificial intelligence 1. Chinese rules targeting how companies can use algorithms will go into effect in March. read more It’s the first major attempt among global regulators to rein in Big Tech’s increasingly dystopian influence. Apps from TikTok-owner ByteDance and others, already hit by an advertising slowdown, will have to allow consumers to opt out of personalised recommendations, among other things.

President Xi Jinping is tightening his grip on local giants like Alibaba (9988.HK) and Tencent (0700.HK). Other governments can take note. Thorny issues like online discriminatory pricing tactics, excessive personal data collection and even harassing users with pop-up windows have been called out. The latest curbs on algorithms put a welcome emphasis on combatting internet addiction.

But the details are too vague, making implementation tricky and costly. Companies will have to police “fake news” themselves and somehow ensure elderly people are protected from frauds; algorithms must also promote “positive energy” and must not sway public opinion. And that’s on top of China’s tough censorship requirements. It’s a well-intended but messy first effort from Beijing. (By Yawen Chen)

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Editing by Robyn Mak and Katrina Hamlin

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