China issues draft guidelines for internet recommendation algorithms


In this photo illustration the Chinese multinational conglomerate specializing in e-commerce retail Internet AI and technology, Alibaba ( logo is seen on an Android mobile device.

Budrul Chukrut | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images

China has issued draft guidelines on regulating the algorithms used by internet service providers to make recommendations to users, part of efforts to protect the privacy and data security of users, the internet regulator said on Friday.

Service providers must abide by business ethics and principles of fairness and should not set up algorithm models that entice users to spend large amounts of money or spend money in a way that may disrupt public order, the Cyberspace Administration of China said in a statement.

Algorithms should not be used to create fake user accounts and users should be given the option to easily turn off algorithm recommendation services, it said, adding that the draft is open for public feedback until Sept. 26.

The move comes amid a wide-ranging crackdown by Beijing on its internet sector, which has seen authorities target and punish companies on issues ranging from monopolistic behavior to consumer privacy.

Earlier this year, the Chinese Consumer Association criticized internet companies for misusing personal data and “bullying” people into purchases and promotions. State media have since issued multiple calls for regulating the use of such algorithms.

Internet companies globally use algorithms to predict user preferences and make recommendations. In China, this would include firms such as e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, ride-hailing firm Didi Global and TikTok owner ByteDance.

China recently passed a data security law that will go into effect on Sept. 1 to protect internet users’ rights in cyberspace and impose curbs on its fast-growing internet industry.