China Tightens Control Over Online Content, Bans Use of OpenAI’s ChatGPT by Big Tech Companies

ODSC - Open Data Science
3 min readMar 9, 2023

In another move to monitor the rise of AI within China, the Chinese government has ordered large technology companies in the country to refrain from providing services related to ChatGPT. According to NikkeiAsia, this directive is part of a broader effort to tighten control over online content and prevent the spread of what the government deems as harmful information. State media also blasts ChatGPT as a spreader of U.S. government misinformation.

Regulators have told tech giants, Tencent Holdings and Ant Group, an Alibaba Group Holding affiliate, to not offer access to ChatGPT services on their platforms. This goes for direct services and third parties as reported by sources speaking to NikkeiAsia. This is no surprise as the popular chatbot is currently unavailable in China without a virtual private network.

Because of this, Tencent suspended many third-party services recently, even if said services were not connected to ChatGPT or any similar programs. But it wasn’t only the ban on the use of ChatGPT. Regulators also told tech companies that they must report any ChatGPT-like programs to Beijing before launch. This is unsurprising as the Chinese government regularly bans foreign websites and apps for servicing within the country given its strict control of online content.

The government has previously cracked down on social media platforms and messaging apps that it deems to be spreading “harmful” information or enabling illegal activities. In recent years, the government has also imposed strict regulations on AI technologies, including facial recognition, speech recognition, and most recently the requirement to register deepfakes and apply watermarks.

The ban on ChatGPT services will likely have significant implications for Chinese tech companies and the broader AI industry. China is home to many large tech companies that have invested heavily in AI research and development. Companies like Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent have all developed their own AI models and use them in a variety of products and services. However, the ban on ChatGPT services may limit their ability to create new AI applications that rely on natural language processing.

The ban is also likely to have implications for the broader AI industry, as it raises concerns about AI research and development limitations in China. Some experts argue that the ban on ChatGPT services may be a sign of a broader trend toward increased government control over the AI industry. This could have implications for the development of AI technologies in China and beyond.

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