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Screen capture showing a Chinese app's food recommendations

China moved toward a clamp down on recommendation algorithms.

What’s new: China’s internet regulatory agency proposed rules that include banning algorithms that spread disinformation, threaten national security, or encourage addictive behavior.

What it says: The plan by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) broadly calls for recommendation engines to uphold China’s social order and “promote socialist core values.” The public has until September 26, 2021, to offer feedback. It’s not clear when the rules would take effect. Under the plan:

  • Recommendation algorithms would not be allowed to encourage binges or exploit users’ behavior by, say, raising prices of goods they buy often.
  • Content platforms would be required to tell users about their algorithms’ operating principles and audit them regularly to make sure they comply with CAC regulations. They would also have to allow users to disable automated recommendations easily.
  • Algorithms that make false user accounts, generate disinformation, or violate an individual’s rights would be banned.
  • Platforms would have to obtain approval before deploying recommendation algorithms capable of swaying public sentiment.

Behind the news: China is not alone in its national effort to rein in the influence of AI.

  • The European Union released draft regulations that would ban or tightly restrict social scoring systems, real-time face recognition, and algorithms engineered to manipulate behavior.
  • The Algorithmic Accountability Act, which is stalled in the U.S. Congress, would require companies to perform risk assessments before deploying systems that could spread disinformation or perpetuate social biases.

Why it matters: Recommendation algorithms can enable social media addiction, spread disinformation, and amplify extreme views.

We’re thinking: There’s a delicate balance between protecting the rights of consumers and limiting the freedoms of content providers who rely on platforms to get their message out. The AI community can help with the challenge of formulating thoughtful regulations.


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