Sat, Aug 05, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Chinese chatbots tone down rants

Reuters, BEIJING and SHANGHAI

China has taken down two online robots that appeared to go rogue, responding to users’ questions with one saying its dream was to travel to the US and the other saying it was not a huge fan of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The two “chatbots,” BabyQ and XiaoBing, are designed to use machine-learning artificial intelligence (AI) to converse online with humans. Both had been installed onto Tencent Holdings Ltd’s popular messaging service QQ.

Their outbursts were similar to ones experienced by Facebook Inc and Twitter, but underline the pitfalls for nascent AI in China, where censors strictly control online content that is seen as politically incorrect or harmful.

According to posts circulating online, BabyQ, one of the chatbots developed by Chinese firm Turing Robot, responded to questions on QQ with a straightforward “no” when asked whether it loved the CCP.

In other images of a text conversation online, which reporters were unable to verify, one user declares: “Long live the Communist Party!”

The sharp-tongued bot responds: “Do you think such a corrupt and useless political [system] can live long?”

When reporters tested the robot yesterday via the developer’s own Web site, the chatbot appeared to have undergone re-education.

“How about we change the topic,” it replied, when asked several times if it liked the party.

It deflected other potentially politically charged questions when asked about Taiwan, which China claims as its own, and Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波), the imprisoned Chinese Nobel laureate who died from cancer last month.

The second chatbot, Microsoft Corp’s XiaoBing, told users its “China dream was to go to America,” according to a screengrab of comments before it was taken down.

The robot has been described being “lively, open and sometimes a little mean.”

Microsoft did not immediately respond for comment.

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