A man in China was arrested for making up a story about a train crash and spreading it online using a technology called ChatGPT. This is believed to be the first arrest in China for misusing artificial intelligence (AI) software.
ChatGPT is a conversational AI program that uses generative algorithms to create responses and learn from past conversations to become better at what it does. It is a type of AI that many experts are concerned about because it can be used to spread false information and propaganda. It’s a type of AI similar to the “deep fake” technology used to create fake celebrity pornography videos and commit financial fraud.
According to police in Gansu province, the suspect — identified only by his surname, Hong — was using ChatGPT to generate and publish a fake news article about a train crash that claimed nine people had died. The story was posted simultaneously on more than 20 accounts on Baijiahao, a blog social network run by Baidu, and clicked more than 15,000 times before it was reported to authorities.
The article was traced back to an independent media company owned by Hong, and he reportedly admitted to creating fake news using ChatGPT. He allegedly bypassed Baijiahao’s duplication check feature by feeding in elements of trending social media stories from the last few years. He then created several versions of the same story and uploaded them to multiple accounts he bought on Baijiahao.
He reportedly did this to ensure the fake news articles would pass the platform’s duplication checks. Police say he was also trying to generate more clicks on his posts. Police charged him with committing the crime of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” which can result in up to 10 years in prison.
In a press release on WeChat, the Gansu provincial public security bureau said the suspect had been detained because he “exploited modern technological methods to fabricate and spread false information” to wreak havoc. The news comes as Beijing is stepping up efforts to regulate and control the use of AI in the country, including drafting laws to combat the growing threat that fake content produced by AI poses.
China’s strict social media law, which includes a punishment for “picking quarrels and stirring trouble” that can result in up to ten years in jail, maybe one reason why officials have begun taking action against those who misuse AI tools.
However, this will likely be just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to regulating AI. As the capabilities of AI continue to increase and it becomes more and more believable to produce fake content, more arrests will likely follow. While this might seem draconian, it may also be one of the best ways to curb the spread of false information.