China’s first public arrest related to the misuse of ChatGPT has occurred, five months after the AI chatbot gained popularity for its human-like text generation capabilities. The arrestee, identified only by the surname Hong, stands accused of utilizing the chatbot to fabricate news about a fatal train crash in Gansu province, resulting in the deaths of nine individuals. The Kongtong district police made this announcement on their official WeChat account on Sunday, along with a series of photos documenting the arrest.
Hong’s detainment represents the first instance following the implementation of China’s new regulations on deepfake technology in January. These regulations are aimed at curbing the misuse of technologies capable of manipulating face and voice data. Although ChatGPT is blocked in China, individuals have found ways to circumvent these restrictions, such as by using virtual private networks (VPNs).
The local cybersecurity police unit became aware of an article regarding the train crash, which was published on April 25. Prompted by this discovery, an investigation was launched into the matter. Authorities uncovered that 21 blog-style accounts on Baidu, China’s equivalent of Google, had simultaneously published similar fake articles featuring various locations. These posts had collectively garnered over 15,000 views at the time, as reported by the Gansu police.
The cybersecurity police in Gansu successfully traced the origin of the fabricated posts to an independent company operated by Hong, registered in the tech hub of Shenzhen. Hong confessed to using ChatGPT to generate the false news about the train crashes before disseminating them online, according to the Gansu police.
Hong currently faces charges of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” a crime that carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. The investigation is still ongoing, as stated.