Chinese Smart Speakers

Chinese Government Questions Voice Tech Companies About Security Measures

The Chinese government is questioning the country’s most prominent tech companies about voice software security as it ramps up cybersecurity regulations around voice, according to an AP report. The Cyberspace Administration of China met with 11 firms involved in voice tech to talk about social audio platforms and synthetic speech generation, positioning the discussion around preventing fraud and identity theft.

Chinese Voice Tech

The 11 companies included some of the largest Chinese tech firms like Tencent, Quyan, Alibaba, Xiaomi, and TikTok parent company Bytedance. The Cyberspace Administration pushed for more security checks and efforts to anticipate and prevent future problems that may arise. The meeting is part of the Chinese government paying closer attention to tech companies and potential rule violations. Tencent and Baidu were among a dozen such companies that had to pay stiff fines over what the government deemed monopolistic practices.

Social audio platform Clubhouse may have been a motivator for the discussion. Clubhouse was banned by China in February in the wake of conversations on the app about the mistreatment of the Uyghur people in  Xinjiang, though Chinese equivalents from Xiaomi and others have arisen in the weeks since. The government outright banned companies from making deepfake audio and video in 2019 , outlawing the use of speech synthesis and related tech. Just days after the meeting, China released new rules guiding the regulation of social audio and speech synthesis technology. The Internet Information Office and the Ministry of Public Security published the rules, which tell local departments of the agencies to boost security measures around the tech

Voice Tech Expansion

Social audio and speech synthesis are spreading and becoming popular incredibly quickly. Clubhouse has exploded this year despite the Chinese ban, passing 10 million users in late February and spawning rival social audio platforms like Quilt and Twitter Spaces. Synthesizing speech is starting to proliferate all over as well, from with sophisticated creations from startups like Replica Studios and Amazon giving Alexa the voice of Samuel L. Jackson. There is concern about potentially misleading people with deepfake videos, as demonstrated with a televised fake version of Queen Elizabeth II doing a table dance, but the tech itself is only becoming more accepted by the public. Chinese companies have to appeal to this expanding market while navigating the government regulations surrounding the tech. Baidu, Tencent, and Xiaomi are even members of the Voice Interoperability Initiative, joining a growing list of companies who want voice-enabled tech to cooperate across multiple platforms. However they choose to develop voice tech, they will have to cope with more scrutiny from the Chinese government, at least for now.


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