News aggregation platform Jinri Toutiao held a meeting with engineers from other internet companies yesterday to disclose how Toutiao derived its algorithms (in Chinese) and stressed that the machine doesn’t do all the jobs to recommend news for users.

“We constantly redirect, design, monitor, and manage algorithmic models instead of allowing the machine to make all the decisions,” said Toutiao’s senior engineer Cao Huanhuan at the event. Cao also introduced how the team trained the large-scale online recommendation model and highlighted the fact that Toutiao filters out low-quality and explicit content with its AI recognition technique.

Toutiao’s AI news recommendation system has long been the firm’s core asset to acquire a growing user base and pocket advertiser cash. The system is known for recommending and pushing relevant content to its users based on their behaviors and preferences. The firm even creates fake news to train its anti-fake news AI.

However, just two weeks ago, Toutiao and Phoenix News received punishments from the internet watchdog for spreading pornographic materials and publishing news without a proper license. Toutiao, as a consequence, had to suspend updating several news verticals for 24 hours.

In response to the reinforcement of the rules, Toutiao is hiring 2,000 content review editors, preferably Communist Party members, to comb its app for unsavory content. Therefore, Toutiao’s decision to disclose the logic and outline of its algorithms may not seem as absurd as it tries harder to avoid recommending “inappropriate” content to users.

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Timmy Shen

Timmy Shen is a technology reporter based in Beijing. He's passionate about photography, education, food and all things tech. Send tips and feedback to or follow him on twitter at...

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