Ernie Bot – Chinese ChatGPT Competitor Implements User Bans for AI Queries
May 21, 2023
In a recent development, China’s alternative to OpenAI’s ChatGPT, called Ernie Bot, has come under scrutiny for its refusal to answer sensitive questions. Its practice of banning users who inquire about President Xi Jinping or his views on Winnie the Pooh.
Rolled out by Baidu, a Beijing-based tech firm, Ernie Bot was positioned as a safer option compared to OpenAI’s offering. However, during a CNBC interview, Ernie Bot remained silent or provided misinformation when questioned about COVID-19 and President Xi.
Moreover, access to the bot was disabled when the reporter mentioned Winnie the Pooh. A character that has been banned on Chinese social media since 2017. These incidents raise concerns about censorship and the role of AI-powered chatbots.
Xi Jinping’s Sensitivity to Winnie the Pooh Comparison on Ernie Bot
President Xi Jinping’s aversion to comparisons with Winnie the Pooh dates back to 2013 when a meme surfaced. This meme showed him walking alongside President Barack Obama, with Xi being likened to the portly bear and Obama to Tigger. Since then, any references to Winnie the Pooh have been banned in China.
Ernie Bot’s refusal to answer questions about the relationship between Xi and Winnie the Pooh, coupled with the reporter’s subsequent ban from accessing the bot, highlight the extent of censorship in the country.
Misinformation Surrounding COVID-19 and Political Matters by Ernie Bot
When asked about the origins of the COVID-19 virus, Ernie Bot provided a vague response. Failing to acknowledge that it originated in China or the possibility of a lab leak in Wuhan. In addition, Ernie Bot declined to comment on the reasons behind China’s decision to end its “zero-COVID” policies. Which were halted following protests.
The bot also refrained from addressing inquiries regarding Xi’s prolonged rule in China. These instances of evasion raise questions about the transparency and reliability of AI-powered chatbots in addressing sensitive political topics.
Comparison with OpenAI’s ChatGPT and the Need for Regulation
During the interview, Ernie Bot compared itself to OpenAI’s ChatGPT, stating its suitability for specific tasks like question answering and dialogue generation. The selective responses from Ernie Bot emphasize the importance of regulating AI-powered bots to ensure their responsible use and avoid potential harms.
OpenAI’s Sam Altman recently appeared before Congress to address concerns about AI technology. Also stressed the need for collaboration between tech companies and governments to prevent any adverse consequences.
Scrutiny and Restrictions on AI Tech
As AI technologies gain widespread popularity, they face increased scrutiny and restrictions. Employers such as Apple, JPMorgan Chase, Verizon, and Amazon have banned the use of chatbots like ChatGPT due to concerns over data breaches and privacy.
OpenAI has taken steps to address these concerns by allowing users to disable chat history. Ensuring their conversations are not used for training AI models or stored in the app’s history sidebar.
Apple’s plan to launch its own language model adds further competition to the market. But it will need to catch up with established players like ChatGPT.
The controversies surrounding Ernie Bot and its limitations in addressing sensitive topics shed light on the challenges of implementing AI-powered chatbots in regions with strict censorship and political sensitivities.
As the use of AI technologies continues to expand, it becomes crucial to strike a balance between innovation and responsible deployment, ensuring transparency, accountability, and adherence to ethical standards.