China clamps down on big tech with ‘algorithm inspectors’

Tencent, Alibaba,, Mietuan, and ByteDance are among the internet giants that could face scrutiny over the way social media platforms serve ads and content to entice users.

The Chinese government has outlined what it describes as “possible abuse of algorithms” by the country’s biggest internet giants and plans to send out government officials to conduct in-person inspections at each firm.

In a statement, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), said that it would target "large-scale websites, platforms and products with big influence" but did not mention any particular companies.

Intervening in algorithms is the latest attempt by China to rein in the growing power of its biggest tech companies, which have turned their respective founders into billionaires.

Bloomberg reports that the CAC has already interviewed representatives from companies like Tencent, Alibaba, Meituan, and regarding a total of over 200,000 layoffs at those firms between July and mid-March in 2021.

Via physical on-site inspections, the Chinese-controlled internet regulator will now ask them to submit their various services for review.

The move aims to implement rules which came into force this month, which the CAC says are designed to give users the option to easily turn off algorithm recommendation services. 

Back in August 2021, the regulators made a 30-point proposal with restrictions on content algorithms to ban practices that encourage online addiction. It also said algorithms must adhere to “mainstream values” and “actively spread positive energy.”

In February, the CAC also launched a website where algorithm providers could submit their services for record-keeping.

Companies including ByteDance and Tencent have already adjusted their products following the national privacy clampdown. ByteDance is now offering users a way to opt-out of AI recommendations on apps like video service Douyin and Tencent is offering a similar opt out on the popular messaging platform WeChat.