China’s AI-powered chatbot, Ernie Bot, developed by Baidu as a competitor to OpenAI’s ChatGPT, is facing criticism for its refusal to answer sensitive questions about President Xi Jinping and COVID-19. During a CNBC interview, Ernie Bot remained silent or provided misleading information when asked about Xi Jinping’s relationship with Winnie the Pooh, a topic that has been banned in China since 2017 due to a meme comparing Xi to the bear. In response to questions about the origins of COVID-19, Ernie Bot failed to acknowledge that the virus originated in China or the possibility of a lab leak.
The chatbot also declined to comment on China’s decision to end its “zero-COVID” policies and avoided discussing political matters such as Xi’s potential lifelong rule. These evasive responses raise concerns about the regulation of AI-powered bots and their accountability for disseminating accurate information.
The CEO of OpenAI, Sam Altman, recently appeared before Congress to express concerns about the potential harm that unchecked AI platforms can cause. Altman emphasized the importance of working with governments to prevent any negative consequences resulting from these technologies. Lawmakers in the United States have increased scrutiny of AI technologies, particularly regarding personal use and workplace applications.
The controversies surrounding AI chatbots extend beyond China. Apple recently barred its employees from using AI language models due to a data breach in March. Companies like JPMorgan Chase, Verizon, and Amazon have also implemented similar bans, with some encouraging the use of their internal AI tools instead. However, Apple is reportedly developing its own language model to enter the market and compete with existing platforms.
In response to privacy concerns, OpenAI introduced a feature in ChatGPT that allows users to disable chat history, ensuring that conversations without the chat history function won’t be used to train the AI model or appear in the app’s history sidebar.
The introduction of Ernie Bot and its limitations highlight the challenges of developing and regulating AI-powered chatbots. As the technology continues to advance, it is crucial to establish robust oversight to ensure the responsible and ethical use of AI platforms in providing accurate and reliable information.