Baidu, China’s leading search engine, has made its ERNIE AI chatbot publicly available, becoming the first Chinese company to do so. However, the chatbot will be subject to extreme censorship on certain topics, such as the deadly 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.
Two other Chinese companies, Baichuan and Zhipu AI, have also put their chatbots online for general use. These companies are seeking to compete with Western rivals such as Microsoft and OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT.
Despite government regulations that restrict access to certain information, the move nonetheless occurs. The Chinese government has issued guidelines this month informing generative AI apps that they must “abide by socialist values” and refrain from endangering national security.
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OpenAI’s ChatGPT is banned in China.
Baidu said in a statement that it is “thrilled to share that ERNIE Bot is now fully open to the general public starting August 31.” The company also said that it is set to launch a suite of new AI-native apps that allow users to fully experience the four core abilities of generative AI: understanding, generation, reasoning, and memory.
In a statement, Baidu CEO Robin Li said the rollout would enable the company to gather “massive” human feedback, enabling the company to improve its apps quickly.
To learn how to answer questions in a human-like manner, generative AI apps, such as ERNIE, use huge amounts of data collected from both the Internet and from users.
In Hong Kong on Thursday, Baidu shares rose 3.2% due to the ERNIE rollout.
Censorship of AI chatbots in China:
- The guidelines issued by Beijing this month state that AI chatbots must not generate content that is “harmful to national security,” “disrupts social order,” or “undermines social morality.”
- The guidelines also require AI chatbots to be able to identify and filter out sensitive content, such as information about the Tiananmen Square crackdown.
- It is unclear how the censorship of AI chatbots will be enforced. However, it is likely that Chinese companies will be required to submit their chatbots to government authorities for approval before they can be made available to the public.
The censorship of AI chatbots is a reflection of the Chinese government’s tight control over information. The government is concerned about the potential for AI chatbots to be used to spread misinformation or to challenge the government’s authority.
It remains to be seen how the censorship of AI chatbots will affect the development of this technology in China. However, it is clear that the Chinese government is determined to maintain control over the flow of information in the country.