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China issues first arrest over fake news created with ChatGPT: Report

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A suspect identified only as “Hong” was detained by local authorities and arrested in the Gansu district of China after allegedly using ChatGPT to generate fake news stories. 

According to a report from the South China Morning Post, Hong was detained after an investigation into an unsubstantiated article relating to a train crash was discovered on April 18 by law enforcement agents.

Hong’s arrest for “using artificial intelligence technology to concoct false and untrue information” came after cybersecurity specialists discovered at least 20 accounts had simultaneously posted the fake news article to a popular blogging site hosted by Chinese tech conglomerate Baidu.

China’s laws regarding the use of social media are considered among the strictest in the world. Police say Hong was arrested for running afoul of an ordinance against “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” a catch-all law that specifically covers spreading fake news and rumors on the internet.

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If charged, Hong faces up to five years in prison under the normal statute. However, if courts view the offense as egregious, they could be sentenced to as many as 10 years under the law’s extended provisions covering crimes considered especially severe.

While the ChatGPT service is currently banned in China, its use can be obfuscated by virtual private networks (VPNs).

Related: China is developing AI without US chips: Here’s how

Similar homegrown artificial intelligence (AI) services, such as Alibaba’s ‘Tongyi Qianwen,’ a recently announced generative AI model trained to answer questions in both English and Mandarin, have received the Chinese government’s blessing. However, as Cointelegraph reported in mid-April, it remains unclear whether Tongyi Qianwen will have the same creative abilities as ChatGPT.

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The lack of robust generative AI models in China could potentially have a chilling effect on the nation’s tech scene, especially in sectors such as fintech and cryptocurrency trading, where the use of ChatGPT and products built on OpenAI’s GPT API have exploded into popularity.