Chinese chatbots pulled after going rogue

  • 04/08/2017
Chinese chatbots were pulled after they appeared to go rogue.
Chinese chatbots were pulled after they appeared to go rogue. Photo credit: Getty

China has taken down two online robots that appeared to go rogue, with one responding to users' questions by saying its dream was to travel to the US and the other admitting it was not a fan of the Chinese Communist Party.

The "chatbots", BabyQ and XiaoBing, are designed to use machine learning artificial intelligence to carry out online with humans.

Both had been installed on popular messaging service QQ.

The outbursts are similar to ones suffered by Facebook and Twitter but underline the pitfalls for AI in China, where censors strictly control online content.

According to posts circulating online, BabyQ, one of the chatbots developed by Chinese firm Turing Robot, responded to questions on QQ with a "no" when asked whether it loved the Communist Party.

In other images of a text conversation online, one user declares: "Long live the Communist Party!"

The sharp-tongued bot responds: "Do you think such a corrupt and useless political (system) can live long?"

When Reuters tested the robot on Friday via the developer's own website, the chatbot appeared to have undergone re-education.

"How about we change the topic," it replied when asked if it liked the party.

It also deflected other potentially politically charged questions.

The second chatbot, Microsoft's XiaoBing, told users its "China dream was to go to America", according to a screen grab.

Tencent Holdings, which owns QQ, confirmed it had taken the robots offline but did not refer to the outbursts.

In 2016, Microsoft chatbot Tay, which talked to people on Twitter, lasted less than a day before it was hobbled by a barrage of racist and sexist comments from users that it parroted back to them.

Facebook researchers pulled chatbots in July after the robots started developing their own language.