US blacklists Chinese AI companies

A group of Chinese AI and facial recognition companies have been added to a US blacklist quoting rights abuses against Muslims in Xinjiang.

The “entity list” of the US government consists of 28 Chinese companies. The list forbids American companies from continuing any associations with them.

The US government said the companies were blacklisted as they played a role in the “implementation of China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups” in the Xinjiang province.

Rights groups accuse Beijing of oppressing the mostly Muslim Uighurs in detention camps. China has named the camps ‘vocational training centres’ designed to fight extremism. As of last year, more than two million Uyghurs and Muslim minorities have been thrown into the camps, made to memorise Communist Party propaganda, and even repudiate their religion.

Some notable companies have also been added to US’ list. Companies such as Hikvision and Dahua Technology, two of the world’s major suppliers of video surveillance technologies. Both the companies have global R&D centres in cities like London and Montreal.

But, the prime addition to the list is SenseTime. The company is the world’s most-funded AI start-up and is famous for great facial recognition systems which are used by the Chinese government for mass surveillance.

China is unquestionably a pioneer in AI, partially due to its large-scale data collection enabling large sets for training algorithms. The US may also be restraining some of its own companies by severing trade relations with some of China’s tech companies, but various companies will welcome the additional pressure it places on Beijing to mend their human rights record.