Technology Mar 19

China's tech executives called in for security warning over 'deepfakes'

Bytedance, Alibaba, Tencent and big internet firms told they must undertake security assessments because they are public information systems providers; Security agencies ordered to probe technologies that can create 'very realistic' fake videos and voice audios

China's tech executives given security warning on 'deepfakes'
Chinese companies that provide information services over the internet have been warned of their obligations to assess the security risks of new technologies in terms of stirring up social disorder. File photo by AFP. 

(ATF) Executives from top tech companies such as Bytedance, Alibaba, Tencent and eight others were summoned by authorities in China for talks on March 18 about "deepfake" technologies and security.

The National Internet Information Office and the Ministry of Public Security have instructed local IT departments and public security agencies to strengthen their security assessment of new internet applications related to voice software and "deepfake" technologies.

China's Cyberspace Administration said companies should report to the government about plans they have to add new functions that "have the ability to mobilise society".

Government officials appear to be concerned about the potential for new tech applications to create or stir up social disorder.

"Deepfake" technology is said to use artificial intelligence to create hyper-realistic but fake videos or audios where a person appears to say or do something they did not.

Representatives from Ke.com, smartphone maker Xiaomi, Kuaishou (the video-app rival of TikTok), Whale quasi-digital server, Cloud account, Himalaya, Quyan and music streaming service NetEase Cloud Music also attended the meeting on Thursday.

They were urged to comply with the Network Security Law and be mindful about public opinion and help social media adhere to security regulations in regard to information on the internet and regulations about the "ability to mobilise" and other laws.

'Risk prevention'

Officials said they wanted the companies to improve risk prevention and control mechanisms, and promptly take effective rectification measures in regard to 'hidden' safety hazards discovered in security assessments. And they must earnestly implement corporate information content that shows their principal responsibility for security issues.

The State Internet Information Office and the Ministry of Public Security have directed officials in Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Zhejiang, Guangdong and other local cybersecurity and information departments, plus security agencies to perform security assessments on new "deepfake" technologies and to find out more about voice software apps. 

The requirements of "Regulations on the Security Evaluation of Internet Information Services with Public Opinion Attributes or Social Mobilization Capabilities" apply to online, or information services such as new technologies and applications used to enable information service functions.

In the event of major changes in attributes, technical implementation methods, and basic resource allocation; or a significant increase in the number of users, internet information service providers are obliged to conduct security assessments on their own. They are responsible for assessment results, they were told, and must submit reports to the Cybersecurity and information departments and public security organs.

These agencies, meanwhile, must undertake a written review of their security assessment reports, and if deemed necessary, conduct on-site inspections of internet information service providers in accordance with their respective responsibilities.

As a next step, the National Internet Information Office and the Ministry of Public Security will continue to guide local cybersecurity and information departments and public security agencies to increase inspections.

They want local Internet companies to strictly abide by relevant laws and regulations, to actively undertake security management obligations, and their corporate responsibilities to ensure order and a good 'ecology' is maintained on communications networks.

These security warnings come at a time when China has increased scrutiny of its internet giants over concern over monopolistic behaviour and abuses of citizens' consumer rights.

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China Tech giants Deep-fake tech Alibaba Tencent Bytedance Security warning public order fake videos concern fake audio Deepfake