Software Algorithms are brought under the scrutiny in China

The Cyberspace Administration of China on August 27th, 2021 released the draft titled “Internet Information Service Algorithmic Recommendation Management Provisions” for public comment. It appears to be detailed and technically informed and not just non-technical laws.

For example, see this one section: Article 7: Algorithmic recommendation service providers shall: fulfil their primary responsibility for algorithmic security, establish and complete management systems for user registration, information dissemination examination and verification, algorithmic mechanism examination and verification, security assessment and monitoring, security incident response and handling, data security protection and personal information protection, etc.; formulate and disclose algorithmic recommendation-related service norms; and allocate specialized personnel and technical support suited to the scale of algorithmic recommendation services.

I have mixed feelings about this:

  • On one hand, Algorithms (proven a few times in social media) can create a significant impact on society/country – a private group of unelected people (however noble they may be) having sole custodianship over them is risky for any society eventually. It is time these algorithms come under regulation for the safety and welfare (discrimination is for real my friends) of everyone.
  • On the other hand, the regulations proposed can (soon) turn out to become too much Government intervention that will not be comfortable/desirable for the populace outside China. It is obvious the true motivations behind China’s rulers for introducing this law. It does scare me to think about the dangerous consequences that can arise from the ability to peer into the vast datasets and inferences coming out of these algorithms at the hands of an unconstrained regime.

The rest of the world may choose a path different to China, but surely, we can’t ignore what’s been tried out there – As a tech enthusiast, I am glad there will be a lot of lessons coming out from China on what worked/didn’t work with these rules in coming years. Earlier European Union was the bellwether to look for what’s coming with regulations regarding privacy and laws for tech, China has now overtaken them and is now paving the path (good or bad depends on your viewpoint).

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