Hong Kong (CNN) Several popular Chinese apps have access to ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence chatbot that has taken the world by storm, even as major Chinese tech companies race to develop their own equivalent.
ChatGPT, developed by US research lab OpenAI, is not officially available in China, but several apps on the Chinese social media platform WeChat had previously allowed access to the chatbot without using a VPN or foreign mobile number.
Those doors seem closed now. Earlier this week, apps ChatGPTRObot and AIGC Chat Robot said their programs had been suspended for “violation of relevant laws and regulations,” without specifying which laws.
Two other apps, ChatgptAiAi and Chat AI Conversation, said their ChatGPT services went offline due to “relevant business changes” and policy changes.
The Shenlan BL app was even more vague, citing “various reasons” for the closure.
While it’s unclear what caused these shutdowns, there are other signs that China may be souring on ChatGPT. On Monday, state media released a video claiming the chatbot could be used by US authorities to “spread disinformation and manipulate public opinion”.
When asked in Xinjiang, ChatGPT describes the Chinese government’s alleged human rights abuses against ethnic minorities in the Far West, including mass detentions and forced labour. Beijing has repeatedly denied these allegations, claiming that detention camps are “vocational education and training centers” that have since been dismantled.
Other recent articles in the state media have expressed criticism and skepticism about ChatGPT, with China Daily stating that its emergence highlights the need for “strict regulation”.
Several Chinese tech companies saw their shares drop Thursday after news spread that WeChat apps had removed ChatGPT services. Beijing Haitian Ruisheng Science Technology, which develops and produces AI data products, closed 8.4% lower.
Meanwhile, Hanwang Technology and Beijing Deep Glint Technology, both developers of AI products and services, closed down 10% and 5.5% respectively.
Global AI race
ChatGPT burst onto the scene in December and quickly went viral thanks to its ability to provide lengthy, thorough — though sometimes inaccurate — answers to questions and prompts.
Since its release, the tool has been used to write articles for at least one news publication, compile summaries of research papers that fooled some scientists, and even passed graduate-level law and business exams (albeit with low marks).
It has also raised the alarm about the unknown long-term consequences, such as the impact on education and students’ ability to cheat on assignments.
Despite these concerns, ChatGPT’s success has sparked a global AI race.
Microsoft plans to invest billions in the San Francisco-based OpenAI and unveiled its AI-powered Bing chatbot last week, though it made headlines for turning into a darker, sometimes disturbing conversation. Earlier this month, Google announced that it will soon be rolling out Bard, its own answer to ChatGPT.
The Chinese government has previously tried to clamp down on major Western websites and apps, such as Google, Facebook and Amazon, leading to accusations of some digital protectionism.
In the absence of foreign competition in the domestic market, Chinese tech companies have since grown into major international players, many of which are now kicking their gears with AI in mind.
In early February, Chinese behemoth Alibaba said it was testing its own ChatGPT-style tool, though it gave no details on when it would launch.
A team from Fudan University in China developed their own version called MOSS, which immediately went viral, causing the platform to crash this week due to too many users.
And on Wednesday, tech giant Baidu said its AI chatbot ERNIE Bot, slated for a March release, will be used across platforms such as its search engine, voice assistant for smart devices, and even its autonomous driving technology.
The rollout will “create a new entry point for the next-generation internet,” Baidu CEO Robin Li said in an earnings call, adding that the company expects “more and more business owners and entrepreneurs to build their own models and applications on our AI Cloud.” .”
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