China Warns Big Tech Firms Against Providing ChatGPT Services

China Warns Big Tech Firms Against Providing ChatGPT Services

The Chinese regulators directed major tech firms, Tencent and Ant Group, the fintech affiliate of Alibaba Group Holding, not to offer access to ChatGPT services due to Beijing’s concerns over the chatbot's uncensored responses to user queries.

Sources with direct knowledge of the matter confirmed with Nikkei Asia that the regulatory directive also mandates technology firms to report their own ChatGPT-like services before launching them.

ChatGPT, developed by Microsoft-backed start-up OpenAI, is not officially available in China, but some internet users have been using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to access the chatbot services.

Third-party developers on Tencent's WeChat social media app have also released dozens of "mini programs" that claim to offer ChatGPT services. Tencent has suspended several third-party services under regulatory pressure, even those unrelated to ChatGPT, Nikkei Asia reported.

The latest move by regulators follows official backlash against ChatGPT with the state-owned media outlet China Daily suggesting that the chatbot "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."

The regulatory clampdown on ChatGPT doesn’t come as a surprise. The Chinese government has previously banned prominent U.S. websites and apps, including Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Reddit, and Wikipedia.

One executive from a leading Chinese tech company said they will not be using ChatGPT even without a direct regulatory warning, citing its responses are “uncontrollable” and “the platform would be held accountable for the results” if users ask politically sensitive questions to the chatbot.

Amid the rising worldwide popularity of ChatGPT, Chinese tech giants, such as Tencent, Alibaba, and Baidu, announced their own plans to develop similar AI-powered chatbot services. But they were careful with announcement wording, emphasizing that their services are ChatGPT-like but do not include the use of ChatGPT itself.

Sources at Baidu have confirmed that the firm plans to complete internal testing of a ChatGPT-style project called "Ernie Bot" in March, which may not initially be a chatbot but rather an embedded feature in some of the company's products.

China's move against ChatGPT comes at a time when tensions between the U.S. and China have reached a new high. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that new information suggests Beijing could provide "lethal support" to Russia in the Ukraine war.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has rejected the claims and accused the U.S. of spreading lies.