China has blocked OpenAI’s ChatGPT over fears the American company will use the AI to spread propaganda.
Major tech companies nationwide have been ordered not to offer the chatbot to the public, specifically firms in the social media app business.
The ban is due to ChatGPT generating replies that the Chinese Communist Party would otherwise censor, according to Nikkie Asia.
However, users have found a workaround with a virtual private network (VPN) and dozens of ‘mini programs’ released by third-party developers on Tencent’s WeChat social media app that claim to offer services from ChatGPT.
China has blocked ChatGPT from its big tech industry over fears the chatbot will generate replies that are typically censored in the nation
The report states that Chinese regulators told tech firms Tencent and Ant Group (a subsidiary of e-commerce giant Alibaba) to restrict access to ChatGPT and report to officials prior to releasing their own chatbots.
China is one of the world’s most restrictive regarding the internet and media, as it controls the news, online environment and social media platforms.
And ChatGPT joins the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, YouTube Wikipedia and some Google services that are also blocked nationwide.
However, the US has also looked to ban the Chinese app TikTok over the same fears Chinese officials have with ChatGPT.
State-owned media outlet China Daily posted on Weibo that ChatGPT ‘could provide a helping hand to the U.S. government in its spread of disinformation and its manipulation of global narratives for its own geopolitical interests.’
And while people worldwide may be surprised by the move, those in China’s tech industry saw the ban coming.
‘Our understanding from the beginning is that ChatGPT can never enter China due to issues with censorship, and China will need its own versions of ChatGPT,’ one executive from a leading tech company told Nikkei.
An executive from another leading Chinese tech player said the firm had no plans to use ChatGPT – even before the ban.
‘We have already been a target of the Chinese regulator [amid the tech industry crackdown in recent years], so even if there were no such ban, we would never take the initiative to add ChatGPT to our platforms because its responses are uncontrollable,’ the person said.
Users have found a workaround with a virtual private network (VPN) and dozens of ‘mini programs’ released by third-party developers on Tencent’s WeChat social media app that claim to offer services from ChatGPT.
‘There will inevitably be some users who ask the chatbot politically sensitive questions, but the platform would be held accountable for the results.’
Earlier this month, CNBC reported that Chinese companies, including Alibaba and NetEase, announced plans to launch their ChatGPT copycats.
Alibaba announced via its cloud division that it is working on an AI-powered chatbot that would be integrated into its cloud computing products.
And NetEase said it could add the technology to some of its education products.
Xin Sun, senior lecturer in Chinese and East Asian business at King’s College London, told CNBC: ‘In their responses, these tech giants face a dilemma: on the one hand they need to convince consumers and investors that they are not lagging behind in the development of the new technology.’
Industries in the US are also making similar moves.
Jp Morgan revealed this week that it is restricting use of ChatGPT among the company’s some 250,000 staff over concerns about data privacy.
The restrictions stretch across the Wall Street giant’s different divisions. Its implementation is not due to any specific incident but is part of the company’s ‘normal controls around third-party software,’ reports Bloomberg.
Bosses at JP Morgan are concerned that information shared across the platform could be leaked and lead to regulatory concerns.
OpenAI invented ChatGPT, a startup co-founded by billionaire and Twitter CEO Elon Musk, and is headquartered in San Francisco.
A system prototype went online on November 30, 2022, and quickly climbed the popularity ladder, garnishing over one million users in its first week.
ChatGPT uses a machine-learning technique called Reinforcement Learning from Human Feedback (RLHF).
This means it learns through interactions with its environment.
The model was trained with 570 GB of data collected from books, web text, Wikipedia articles and other online writings.
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