Chinese police have detained a man named Hong for allegedly generating fake news of a train crash and disseminating it online. Hong is said to have used artificial intelligence (AI) technology to “concoct information” and post it on multiple accounts. This is reportedly the first arrest for the misuse of ChatGPT in China.
The cyber division of a county police bureau in the northwestern Gansu province noticed a fake news article claiming that nine people had been killed in a train accident. The article appeared on April 25 and was simultaneously posted by over 20 accounts on Baijiahao, a blog-style platform run by Chinese search engine giant Baidu. The fake stories received over 15,000 clicks before the authorities were alerted.
Hong is said to have input the elements of trending social stories from past years in China into ChatGPT to quickly produce different versions of the same fake story. He then bypassed Baijiahao’s duplication check function to publish on multiple accounts that he had acquired.
China has been closely monitoring its social media through firewalls, especially Sina Weibo, which has over 592 million users to ensure no critical content against the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC). China’s top internet regulator has long voiced concern that unchecked development and use of deep synthesis technology could lead to its use in criminal activities such as online scams or defamation.
The police have traced the origins of the article to a company owned by Hong, which operated personal media platforms registered in Shenzhen in Guangdong province in southern China. Hong has been charged with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”, which carries a maximum sentence of five years. However, in severe cases, offenders can be jailed for 10 years and given additional penalties.
ChatGPT is not directly available to Chinese IP addresses, but Chinese users can still access its service if they have a reliable VPN connection. China’s law enforcement agencies have repeatedly voiced suspicion and warnings about the technology as ChatGPT has gone viral in recent months.