China summons Alibaba, Tencent and others over 'deep fakes', internet security

WION Web Team
Beijing, China Published: Mar 18, 2021, 01:36 PM(IST)

A Tencent logo is seen at its booth at the 2020 China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) in Beijing, China Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said talks concerned "voice software that has yet to undergo safety assessment procedures", as well as the application of "deep fake" technology. It also said companies should report to the government plans to add new functions that "have the ability to mobilise society".

Chinese authorities have summoned 11 tech companies including Tencent, Alibaba and TikTok owner ByteDance for talks on "deep fakes" and internet security in a measure to step up scrutiny of the sector.

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said talks concerned "voice software that has yet to undergo safety assessment procedures", as well as the application of "deep fake" technology. It also said companies should report to the government plans to add new functions that "have the ability to mobilise society".

The latest summoning of big tech also involves companies such as smartphone maker Xiaomi, TikTok rival Kuaishou, and music streaming service NetEase Cloud Music.

Deepfakes use artificial intelligence to create hyper-realistic but fake videos or audios where a person appears to say or do something they did not. China has increased scrutiny of its internet giants in recent months, citing concerns over monopolistic behaviour and potential infringement of consumer rights. Regulations stress the dangers of "deepfakes", meaning technology that manipulates videos to appear genuine but depict events or speech that never happened.

China has in recent months taken a tough line on the country's fast-growing tech firms, with 12 companies hit with fines last week for allegedly flouting monopoly rules. 

Authorities last year halted a record $34 billion initial public offering by Alibaba fintech subsidiary Ant Group. They called in its billionaire founder Jack Ma and then opened an investigation into Alibaba business practices deemed anti-competitive.

The aim is to ensure they comply with regulations, carry out safety assessments, and take "effective rectification measures" if potential hazards are found.

In 2019, China issued rules banning online video and audio providers from using artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality technologies to produce "fake news".

The CAC notice comes shortly after China blocked the US invite-only audio app Clubhouse. The app briefly flickered in the mainland before vanishing but has since sparked a number of copycats.

(with inputs)

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