As the world goes gaga over an AI chatbot called ChatGPT, experts believe that developing its Chinese competitor will surely face censorship, cost and data challenges, as in the case of big Internet companies like Alibaba and Tencent, the media reported on Monday.
According to the South China Morning Post, a recent white paper published by the municipal technology bureau of Beijing offered support to local companies in developing ChatGPT rivals.
“But this will be easier said than done, owing to differences in the structure of the English and Chinese languages, cost pressures, availability of data sets, and last but not least – the thorny issue of censorship in China,” the report noted.
“Censorship could certainly hinder China’s ability to develop a local equivalent to ChatGPT,” Dahlia Peterson, a research analyst at Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET), was quoted as saying.
Even if (Chinese) AI companies are able to access and utilise global data and research resources to train their AI models, “it is unlikely the Chinese authorities will allow them to use any material deemed as politically sensitive in their replies”, she stressed.
China’s ruling Communist Party has always controlled the flow of political and social discussion within the country.
The restrictions limit the data sets which scientists use to train AI chat models, said the report.
“Excessive restrictions, content regulation, and censorship could hinder commercialisation and further innovation of such technologies,” said CSET’s research analyst Hanna Dohmen.
Earlier this month, Alibaba confirmed that the company’s research institute Damo Academy is conducting an internal testing of an AI chatbot.
Damo unveiled a natural language processing model with 27 billion parameters in 2021, after OpenAI released GPT-3 with 175 billion parameters in 2020.
However, the unique character of the Chinese language is another challenge to developing a ChatGPT rival.
“Training a Chinese language AI chatbot is also difficult because the country’s open source ecosystem is not as developed and extensive as in the West,” according to Xu Liang, founder of Yuanyu Intelligent.
Yuanyu Intelligent launched ChatYuan, a ChatGPT-inspired service as a mini-app on Tencent Holdings’ WeChat in January.
Compliance is another issue in China, according to the report.
ChatYuan’s mini-app was suspended last week after authorities said such products need more scrutiny of their content.