China summons tech giants over internet security

by AFP

BEIJING – Chinese authorities on Thursday summoned 11 tech companies including Tencent, Alibaba, and TikTok parent ByteDance, for talks on internet security — as regulators step up scrutiny on the country’s high-flying firms.

Officials have in recent months signalled a tougher stance on the country’s fast-growing tech firms, with 12 companies hit with symbolic fines last week for allegedly flouting monopoly rules.

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said on Thursday that the talks concern “voice software that have yet to undergo safety assessment procedures”, as well as the application of “deep fake” technology.

Authorities last year halted a record $34 billion initial public offering by Alibaba fintech subsidiary Ant Group, then opened an investigation into Alibaba business practices deemed anti-competitive a month later.

The latest talks, the CAC said in a statement, also involve companies such as smartphone maker Xiaomi, TikTok rival Kuaishou, and music streaming service NetEase Cloud Music.

The aim is to ensure they comply with regulations and take “effective rectification measures” for potential hazards discovered.

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

“Fake news” has been generalised to mean anything from a mistake to a parody or a deliberate misinterpretation of facts, while the regulations stressed the dangers of “deepfakes”, meaning technology that manipulates videos to appear genuine but which depict events or speech that never happened.