How Food Delivery Workers Shaped Chinese Algorithm Regulations

Article by Matt Sheehan and Sharon Du: “In 2021, China issued a series of policy documents aimed at governing the algorithms that underpin much of the internet today. The policies included a regulation on recommendation algorithms and a draft regulation on synthetically generated media, commonly known as deepfakes. Domestically, Chinese media touted the recommendation engine regulations for the options they gave Chinese internet users, such as the choice to “turn off the algorithm” on major platforms. Outside China, these regulations have largely been seen through the prism of global geopolitics, framed as questions over whether China is “ahead” in algorithm regulations or whether it will export a “Chinese model” of artificial intelligence (AI) governance to the rest of the world.

These are valid questions with complex answers, but they overlook the core driver of China’s algorithm regulations: they are designed primarily to address China’s domestic social, economic, and political problems. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is the ultimate arbiter here, deciding both what counts as a problem and how it should be solved. But the CCP doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Like any governing party, it is constantly creating new policies to try to put out fires, head off problems, and respond to public desires.

Through a short case study, we can see how Chinese food delivery drivers, investigative journalists, and academics helped shape one part of the world’s first regulations on recommendation algorithms. From that process, we can learn how international actors might better predict and indirectly influence Chinese algorithm policy…(More)”.