PYMNTS MonitorEdge May 2024

OpenAI Reportedly Moving to Block Chinese Access to AI Tools

OpenAI is reportedly taking added measures to restrict China’s access to artificial intelligence (AI) software.

As Bloomberg News reported Tuesday (June 25), that means enforcing a policy the company already has to bar users in nations other than the territory the company supports.

According to the report — citing screenshots posted on social media — OpenAI sent memos to developers in China about plans to begin preventing their access to its tools and software starting next month. In response, Chinese companies have begun pushing developers to switch to their own products.

“We are taking additional steps to block API traffic from regions where we do not support access to OpenAI’s services,” an OpenAI spokeswoman said in a statement Tuesday.

The report noted that OpenAI supports access to its services in dozens of countries, and that the company’s guidelines say people accessing its products in countries not included on that list, like China, could have their accounts blocked or suspended.

The move comes as Washington has been pressuring tech companies to block access by China to AI products. Last week the Financial Times (FT) reported that OpenAI and Google had begun conducting stricter screenings of employees and hiring prospects due to concerns about Chinese espionage.

It’s a trend, the report noted, fueled by the concern that foreign governments hope to use compromised workers to access intellectual property and corporate data.

Alex Karp, CEO of data analytics contractor Palantir, told FT that Chinese spying on U.S. tech companies was “a huge problem,” especially for companies that make enterprise software, large language models and weapons systems.

“We have smart adversaries,” Karp said. “Our enemies are ancient cultures fighting for their survival, not just now but for the next thousand years.”

OpenAI said in February that it had disrupted state-sponsored hackers attempting to use its technology for malicious purposes.

Working with its partner Microsoft, the company said it blocked five state-affiliated attacks: two related to China, the others with ties to North Korea, Iran and Russia.

“Although the capabilities of our current models for malicious cybersecurity tasks are limited, we believe it’s important to stay ahead of significant and evolving threats,” OpenAI said on its blog. “To respond to the threat, we are taking a multi-pronged approach to combating malicious state-affiliate actors’ use of our platform.”

Among the incidents mentioned in the report was one in which Charcoal Typhoon, hackers with ties to China, employed OpenAI’s services to create content the company said was most likely meant to be used for phishing campaigns.

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