Chinese authorities have summoned local social media companies to help them crack down on the use of voice-changing software amongst activists to uphold "national security."
The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has released a notice on Thursday ordering local social media and technology companies to bolster security assessment of emerging internet-related technologies and applications such as voice-changing software and deep-fake technology. These efforts are in line with the Chinese authorities' recent tightening of regulations on internet companies and platforms that include those in tech and finance sectors.
China's efforts of clamping down on voice-changing software, which are often used by activists to speak out anonymously, is part of the move by the Chinese Communist Party to "strengthen the security management of Internet-based information services" and "[safeguard] national security and social order," Chinese state-run propaganda outlet Global Times reported.
Among the 11 Chinese internet companies that were summoned by the CAC were the world's largest video game vendor Tencent, multinational electronics company Xiaomi, video-sharing mobile app company Kuaishou, ByteDance, which is the developer of TikTok and its Chinese counterpart Douyin, e-commerce giant Alibaba, streaming service NetEase Music, and digital audio content company Ximalaya.
Part of the CAC's efforts on clamping down on voice-changing software and deep-fake technologies are what they call "on-spot inspection," which will force companies to comply with strict Chinese laws on "[safeguarding] internet transmission order."
Wang Peng, an associate professor at the Gaoling School of Artificial Intelligence at the Renmin University of China explained that deep-fake technology and voice-changing software have a "high potential to deceive" and can be used in a variety of applications, "which can cause a lot of problems." Wang argued, "By leveraging the deep-fake technology, it is difficult for law enforcers to identify whether audio and video content is true to become evidence."
Wang believes that voice-changing software and deep-fake technology have "a negative impact on the society" and said the investigation into these Chinese multinational companies is "overdue" as their actions can pose a threat to public safety, the rights and interests of consumers, and market order.
According to Radio Free Asia, the Chinese authorities' clamping down on voice-changing software is a move to bolster already existing government censors. An internet technician with the last name of Zhan shared that voice messages sent through Douyin and other platforms are stored in the company's servers, which can be accessed by Chinese police. He added that public wi-fi networks also have a "mirror port," which is controlled by police. Any data sent or received through this port can be accessed by authorities. This poses several privacy issues.
An internet activist with a surname Ding mused that the government is once again trying to demonstrate control over the country's biggest tech companies and the social media platforms they run, some of which are used by activists to speak out on the CCP's abuses. She said, "They are tightening controls yet again. Their next step will be to go after Tencent, and then to nationalize Alibaba."
Republic World reported that last year, Alibaba founder Jack Ma criticized Beijing's economic policy, causing the Chinese government to bar its parent company, Ant Group, to make one of the biggest IPO debuts in the world with $37 billion.
China's latest move against voice-changing software removes one of the protections that people speaking out against the Chinese Communist Party's excesses. The CCP is known to have been targeting different groups of people in recent years, including, in particular, Christians and Christian churches, human rights activists, and Uyghurs.