May 8, 2023, 3:56pm EDT
techsecurityEast Asia

China makes first known arrest over using ChatGPT to spread fake news

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

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The News

Police in northwestern China announced on Sunday they detained a man who apparently admitted to using ChatGPT to create fake news and spread it online, in what appeared to be the first time Beijing apprehended a private citizen for using the chatbot.

According to Gansu Province Police’s official WeChat account, authorities began their investigation last month after noticing an article falsely claiming that nine people had been killed in a train accident which was circulating on Baijiahao, a blog-style platform run by tech giant Baidu.

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Police traced the posts to an independent media company owned by the suspect — identified only by the surname “Hong” — who was detained during a search of his home and computer on May 5.

Gansu police accused Hong of committing a “major crime” saying that the suspect admitted to prompting ChatGPT to generate a made-up story based on trending social media posts in China over the last few years. He apparently added that he had bypassed Baijiahao’s duplication check function to publish on multiple accounts he had acquired.

Police acknowledged that the arrest appeared to be the first instance of a private citizen being detained after the implementation of new regulations drafted to curb the threat of fake news posed by artificial intelligence.

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Step Back

The Chinese government has been keeping a close eye on AI as bots like ChatGPT have exploded in popularity in recent months. Authorities in February warned the public to be wary of "rumors" generated by ChatGPT.

But Beijing is also concerned about what role bots will play in a country where information is heavily monitored and regulated. Last month, the country's internet regulator unveiled new guidelines that, among other provisions, require AI developers to ensure generated content reflects "the core values of socialism, and must not contain subversion of state power."