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Shares in China’s iFlytek tumbled after reports that an AI-powered device criticized Mao.

An iFlytek company sign is seen at the Appliance and Electronics World Expo (AWE) in Shanghai, China March 23, 2021. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo
An iFlytek company sign is seen at the Appliance and Electronics World Expo (AWE) in Shanghai, China March 23, 2021. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

On Tuesday, the stock of a Chinese company that specializes in artificial intelligence (AI), called iFlytek (002230. SZ), fell by 10% after users of social media accused an AI-powered gadget that the company sells to Chinese students of writing an essay that was critical of Chairman Mao Zedong. The device in question had allegedly written the essay.

Users on various sites, including Baidu’s Baijiahao, have uploaded photographs of a person complaining to iFlytek’s customer care about how their child’s gadget, a study assistant tablet, had labeled Mao as “narrow-minded” and “intolerant” for launching China’s Cultural Revolution. This individual was upset that the device had made these descriptions of Mao.

Both Reuters and iFlytek did not reply to requests for comment. Thus, either couldn’t verify the account.

When Reuters queried a customer care representative on the company website about the event, the agent stated that it had been resolved.

Cailianshe, a Chinese media source, quoted iFlyTek’s founder and chairman, Liu Qingfeng, claiming that a supplier had supplied the content for trial and that both the supplier and iFlyTek workers were disciplined once the problem was detected. According to Liu Qingfeng, a supplier had offered the content for trial.

Additionally, he was cited as adding that the corporation has improved the device’s content assessment process.

The People’s Republic of China exercises its right to censorship over anything it deems potentially divisive or disparaging about its policies or leaders, even those who have previously served. Even though he passed away in 1976, Mao is still revered as the pioneer of modern China by the Communist Party, which now holds power in China.

The experience with iFlytek demonstrates how unexpected generative AI may be and how it can circumvent governments’ instruments to control content.

There is a frenzy for generative AI in China right now, and the government restricts companies that want to sell their goods to the general public. It has suggested the creation of a blocklist of sources that cannot be utilized in training Chinese artificial intelligence models.

IFlyTek presented its most recent Spark AI model on Tuesday, claiming it can compete with OpenAI’s ChatGPT in most important aspects. At the beginning of 2019, according to Liu, iFlytek’s model may be able to compete with OpenAI’s GPT-4.

Additionally, the business stated that it is collaborating with Huawei Technologies (HWT.UL) on developing an AI model training platform that uses Huawei’s flagship AI processors.

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