Chinese chatbots taken down for not toeing the party line
BEIJING: A pair of chatbots in China have been taken offline after appearing to stray off-script. In response to users’ questions, one said its dream was to travel to the US, while the other said it was not a huge fan of the Chinese Communist Party.
The two chatbots, BabyQ and XiaoBing, were designed to use machine-learning artificial intelligence to carry out conversations with humans online. Both had been installed onTencent Holdings’ popular messaging service QQ.
The indiscretions were similar to ones suffered by Facebook and Twitter, where chatbots used expletives and even created their own language. But they also highlight the pitfalls for nascent artificial intelligence in China, where censors control online content seen as politically incorrect or harmful.
Tencent confirmed it had taken the two robots off-line, but declined to elaborate on reasons.
“The chatbot service is provided by independent third party companies. Both chatbots have now been taken offline to undergo adjustments,” a company spokeswoman said.
According to posts circulating online, BabyQ, one of the chatbots developed by Chinese firm Turing Robot, had responded to questions on QQ with a simple “no” when asked whether it loved the Communist Party.
In other images of a text conversation online, one user declares: “Long live the Communist Party!” The bot responds: “Do you think such a corrupt and useless political system can live long?”
The Chinese government stance is that rules governing cyberspace should mimic realworld border controls and are subject to the same laws as sovereign states.
President Xi Jinping has overseen a tightening of cyberspace controls, including new data surveillance and censorship rules, particularly ahead of an expected leadership shuffle at the Communist Party congress.
The country’s cyberspace administrator did not respond to a request for comment.
The second chatbot, Microsoft’s XiaoBing, said its “dream is to go to America”, according to a screenshot. The robot has previously been described being “lively, open and sometimes a little mean”. Microsoft did not comment. A version of the chatbot accessible on Tencent’s separate messaging app WeChat yesterday responded to questions on Chinese politics saying it was “too young to understand”. When asked about Taiwan it replied: “What are your dark intentions?”
On general questions about China it was more rosy. Asked what the country’s population was, rather than offer a number, it replied: “The nation I most most most deeply love.”
The two chatbots aren’t alone in going rogue. Facebook researchers pulled chatbots last month after they started developing their own language Last year, Microsoft chatbot Tay was taken down from Twitter after making racist and sexist comments.
Analysts said China’s censorship could indirectly help the country in the global race to develop sophisticated chatbots.
“Previously a chatbot only needed to learn to speak. But now it also has to consider all the rules (that authorities) put on it,” said Wang Qingrui, an independent internet analyst in Beijing.
“On the surface it is a restriction on artificial intelligence, but it is actually pushing artificial intelligence to a new level.” – Reuters