Chinese authorities have reportedly detained a man in Gansu Province for allegedly using the language model ChatGPT to write and spread fake news. This appears to be the first arrest made under China’s new anti-AI guidelines that prohibit the misuse of AI services to distribute “fake information.”
The suspect, who has been identified only by his surname Hong, allegedly used ChatGPT to spread fake news that claims nine people had died in a local train accident on April 25. The fabricated news was posted on 20 accounts on Baijahao, a blog-style platform run by Baidu, and was clicked more than 15,000 times before it was discovered by the authorities.
Police in Gansu Province detained Hong for “using artificial intelligence technology to fabricate false and untruthful information.” They added that “using modern technological methods to fabricate false information.”
While China is one of the few countries that block access to ChatGPT, it is still possible to circumvent these restrictions using a VPN connection, which Hong apparently took advantage of.
Hong was charged with “picking fights or causing trouble,” a vague crime that can be applied to suspects who create or spread false information online. However, it is also broadly defined as harming public order or causing confusion in public. The charges have been criticized for undermining free speech and potentially targeting activists who criticize the Chinese government.
This issue brings to light the rising worry around the spread of false information and the improper use of artificial intelligence to produce it. Governments all around the globe are stepping up their efforts to combat the spread of propaganda and fake news, and this case in China demonstrates that they are also prepared to pursue individuals who employ artificial intelligence to spread misleading information.