• China's internet regulator is cracking down on possible harm by tech company algorithms.
  • It wants to send officials to inspect tech firms in person.
  • China has acted to rein in its most powerful tech firms over the last two years.

China has attacked what it describes as possible abuse of algorithms by its internet giants and plans to dispatch government officials to conduct in-person inspections.

The Cyberspace Administration of China, the country's state-controlled internet regulator, said ina statement Friday that it would target "large-scale websites, platforms and products with big influence" but did not call out any particular companies.

We first saw the news via Bloomberg.

The regulator wants China's tech firms to submit their algorithms for review to prevent "abuse" and "bad information", according to a Google Translate translation of its statement. If officials decide a company's algorithms are somehow flawed or illegal, firms face unspecified penalties.

Most tech firms that offer up content recommendations — be it Google's search engine, the News Feed on Facebook, or TikTok's For You Page — rely on algorithms to surface results.

This latest announcement by China's regulator is intended to bring its biggest tech firms in line with its algorithmic management rules, rolled out earlier this year. These, according to Stanford's DigiChina project, prohibit algorithmically generated fake news, or using algorithms to cement a monopoly. They are also intended to curb online addiction, disruption of social disorder, or hurt China's national security, Bloomberg reported. 

Intervening in algorithms is the latest attempt by China to rein in the growing power of its major tech companies, which include online retail giant JD.com, TikTok parent firm ByteDance, and payment and commerce conglomerate Alibaba. Thanks to the huge popularity of their apps and sites, and China's growing connectivity, these firms have turned their respective founders into billionaires.

But China is keen to retain central control of its internet, targeting how these firms collect data; where and how they can list; and, seemingly indirectly, applying pressure on their ultrawealthy founder-CEOs.  JD.com founder Richard Liu, ByteDance cofounder Zhang Yiming, and  Su Hua, founder of TikTok's main rival Kuaishou, have all stepped down from leadership roles at their respective companies within the past two years.

The internet regulator said it had interviewed reps from major firms including JD.com, Tencent, Alibaba and others over recent sweeping job cuts, Bloomberg also reported.

China is not the only nation to be concerned by tech company algorithms, a flashpoint for for lawmakers concerned about everything from online child sexual abuse to free speech on social media.

The UK this month introduced its Online Harms Bill, a wide-ranging piece of proposed legislation that targets how algorithms disseminate illegal or harmful content. The proposed law mentions the word algorithm at least 11 times.

And US lawmakers introduced a bipartisan bill in February, the Social Media NUDGE Act, to force companies to slow down the sharing of misinformation through algorithms.

Read the original article on Business Insider