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Chinese authorities arrest ChatGPT user for generating fake news

Chinese authorities arrest ChatGPT user for generating fake news


According to Chinese officials, the suspect used OpenAI’s chatbot to create multiple variations of a news story falsely reporting a fatal train crash.

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A rendition of OpenAI’s logo, which looks like a stylized whirlpool.
Illustration: The Verge

Chinese authorities have detained a man in the Gansu province in Northern China for allegedly using ChatGPT to write fake news articles. The move appears to be one of the first arrests made under China’s new anti-AI guidelines, which (among other restrictions) prohibit artificial intelligence services from being misused to distribute “false information.”

The suspect, identified only by his surname Hong, is accused of using OpenAI’s chatbot to generate news articles describing a fatal train crash that officials say was “false information,” according to a police statement reported by South China Morning Post. After discovering the article on April 25th, authorities found multiple versions of the same story with different accident locations had been simultaneously posted to 20 additional accounts on Baidu-owned blogging platform Baijiahao.

Hong claimed he was using ChatGPT to rewrite articles and generate money through internet traffic

Gansu authorities traced the articles to an independent company operated by Hong that runs several blog-type outlets. In the statement, local police claim Hong admitted to using ChatGPT to rewrite existing viral news articles to evade duplicate content filters, then posting them online after his friends had shown him how to generate money through internet traffic. The false articles were viewed over 15,000 times before being removed. China is one of the few countries that’s blocked access to ChatGPT, but residents can get around these restrictions using a VPN connection.

Hong was specifically charged for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” — a catch-all offense that the South China Morning Post says can be applied to suspects accused of creating and / or spreading misinformation online. That isn’t the only application of the charge, however, which can also be broadly defined as undermining public order or causing disorder in public places. The wording of the offense is vague and has been widely criticized for its potential to muffle free speech and arrest activists criticizing the Chinese government. Those charged can face a five-to-10-year prison term.