Uighurs: China’s Marketplace Giant Alibaba Admits It Created Software Used To Track Ethnic Minority

Uyghurs living in China are being deprived of their human rights by Chinese Firms in XUAR
Uyghurs living in China are being deprived of their human rights by Chinese Firms in XUAR |

A report reveals that China's Alibaba has software used to detect Uighurs. The revelation came days after some companies, particularly tech giant Huawei, was also found to have such a software.

According to a report from IPVN (via The Guardian), Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, known as the "Amazon of China," has developed a software capable of identifying an Uighur. The company is offering this software to various companies, which means police are not the only ones monitoring the presence of the members of the Chinese ethnic minority in the country.

Per the report, the Uighur detection software is a Cloud-based service that alerts customers if and when Alibaba identifies an Uighur. The software API contains several face attributes to determine a person's gender, potential age, if the person is wearing eyeglasses, and so on.

The attributes also include identifiers as to whether the person being detected is an Asian, and specifically, if the person is an Uighur.

Per Breitbart, the software will be able to determine if a person belongs to the Uighur minority using photos or images. Users will simply need to send photos of the alleged person to the service, which will then check if the person in the photo is an Uighur.

The said software is part of Alibaba's so-called "Cloud Shield" which it claims to be "a pioneer in the field of content security." It "detects and recognizes text, pictures, videos, and voices containing pornography, politics, violent terrorism, advertisements, and spam, and provides verification, marking, custom configuration and other capabilities."

Alibaba said in a statement that its executives were "dismayed" to know that its Alibaba Cloud division had such a software. It added that it will not use such software to "target" certain people.

"We are dismayed to learn that Alibaba Cloud developed a facial recognition technology in a testing environment that included ethnicity as an algorithm attribute for tagging video imagery. We never intended our technology to be used for and will not permit it to be used for targeting specific ethnic groups, and we have eliminated any ethnic tag in our product offering," it said in a statement.

The Chinese company added that this "trial technology" was not "deployed" by any customer. It's interesting to note, then, that as per IPVM's research, Alibaba showed the software to its customers and explained how they will be able to use it to detect people belonging from ethnic minorities - Uighurs, to be exact.

Alibaba Cloud, after having been asked as to the existence of such an Uighur-detecting software, deleted all mentions of the term "Uighur" from the Alibaba website.

Earlier reports from IPVN reveal that Chinese tech giant Huawei also created its own Uighur-detection and monitoring software. Aptly named "Uighur Alarm," this system can alert the Chinese police if security cameras see Uighurs. At least 12 Chinese police departments use this system now.

China has been accused of committing human rights violations over its treatment of the Uighur minority which primarily resides in Xinjiang province in northwestern China. Other ethnic minorities also reside in Xinjiang.

The Chinese Communist Party's repression of these ethnic and religious minorities have intensified in previous years under Xi Jinping. Some of them are forced to stay in places the government calls "vocational training" facilities. These facilities, as per BBC last year, are "high security prison camps, with strict discipline, punishments and no escapes."

China has been accused of committing the genocide of Uighurs, but the International Criminal Court refuses to investigate this because the Asian country is not signatory to the ICC.