China summons tech giants, including Alibaba and Tencent, over 'deep fakes'

China summons tech giants, including Alibaba and Tencent, over 'deep fakes'

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Alibaba Group is seen at its office in Beijing
FILE PHOTO: The logo of Alibaba Group is seen at its office in Beijing, China on Jan 5, 2021. (Photo: Reuters/Thomas Peter)

BEIJING: Chinese authorities on Thursday (Mar 18) said they had summoned 11 tech companies including Tencent, Alibaba and TikTok owner ByteDance for talks on "deep fakes" and Internet security, as regulators try to reel in the country's runaway digital 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".

Smartphone maker Xiaomi, TikTok rival Kuaishou and music streaming service NetEase Cloud Music were also at the meeting, the CAC said. 

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

All the companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

READ: China asks Alibaba to curtail media assets: Report

Deep fakes 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.

Twelve companies were hit with fines last week for allegedly flouting monopoly rules.

Authorities last year halted a record US$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.

Commentary: China’s decision to halt Ant Group’s giant IPO has bigger implications

READ: Messaging app Signal no longer working in China

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.

TikTok owner ByteDance is one of many companies working on Clubhouse-like apps for the Chinese market, Reuters reported earlier this month.

Other new offerings include Kuaishou's invitation-based Feichuan app and Xiaomi's reworking of Mi Talk app into an invitation-only audio service targeted at professionals. 

Source: Reuters/AFP

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