Forum: Artificial Intelligence

Arguing with Robots

by Lorand Laskai

ON 18 SEPTEMBER, the People’s Daily unleashed its full fury on an unlikely target: an algorithm. The semi-authoritative newspaper ripped into the popular news aggregator app Toutiao 今日头条 (literally ‘Daily Headline’), which had recently racked up a series of fines for propagating lewd and vulgar content. It charged Toutiao’s learning algorithm with spreading ‘uncivilised content’ through ‘clickbait headlines’ 标题党 and ‘eye-catching news’ 眼球新闻.1 Why, the op-ed asked, had pictures of scantily dressed models and other clickbait content become an ‘intractable disease’ of the app? The answer, it said, lay in the algorithm.