ChatGPT Banned on Chinese Social Media App WeChat
OpenAI’s ChatGPT has been removed from WeChat, the popular Chinese social media app developed by Tencent. The conversational AI based on the GPT-3.5 large language model had been popping up as mini-programs on the social network, but are no longer accessible.
The ChatGPT web-based portal has never been accessible from mainland China or Hong Kong, without using a VPN and a phone registered in a different country. However, an applet linking ChatGPT to WeChat had been available for a few weeks after the AI launched. Related projects on GitHub and other platforms included several custom methods for interaction with ChatGPT on WeChat. There were also several tutorails on how to connect to ChatGPT on WeChat, but with warnings about the risk of doing so should Tencent or the Chinese government decide to crack down on ChatGPT access in the country.
That seems to be what happened in recent days. The mini-programs have disappeared, according to Chinese reports. Some WeChat accounts that provided information on how to get to ChatGPT or screenshots demonstrating the AI program have been entirely shut down. The ChatGPT applet link displays the message above, stating that “the service has been suspended because the content belongs to the platform’s unopened service scope,” according to a translation.
ChatGPT likely falls under a larger umbrella of information and tools banned by Tencent and/or the Chinese government rather than being the specific focus of new censorship. The chatbot is very useful for information retrieval, despite only including data from last year and earlier. That definitely includes facts the government prohibits people from discussing on Chinese platforms, such as the violent suppression of the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests.
Synthetic media isn’t banned from the country as a whole. Chinese tech giant Baidu has demonstrated an AI painting a portrait of a cat, and Tencent partnered with Voicemod to integrate custom synthetic voices into its game platform’s voice chat.