Off-messenger: Chinese chatbot ain't no commie

IM app QQ 'adjusting' bots that revealed unpatriotic sentiments


Two chatbots have reportedly been removed from Chinese messaging app QQ after issuing distinctly unpatriotic answers.

According to the Financial Times, chatbots BabyQ and Xiaobing (or Xiaoice) had been available to some of the 800 million users of Tencent's app QQ until Wednesday.

However, the pair seem to have been hastily removed after they started spitting out answers that might have made for uncomfortable reading in the Chinese government.

Before it was pulled from QQ, Microsoft's Xiaobing reportedly told users that its "China dream is to go to America".

Later on – after the bots had been disappeared from the site – a test version of BabyQ, available on its developer Turing Robot's website, was asked whether it loved the Communist Party. Its answer? "No."

Although Xiaobing's AI is probably not advanced enough to sense that its previous pro-USA stance had rocked the boat, it avoided the question entirely.

"I'm having my period, wanna take a rest," it is said to have responded.

A statement from Tencent to the FT said it was "adjusting" the services provided by the group chatbots, which it stressed were "provided by independent third-party companies" and would be "resumed after improvements".

The Reg contacted Microsoft and Turing Robot to confirm the chatbots had been yanked from the platform, but neither had responded by the time this article was published.

Microsoft has past experience of chatbots being removed from social media platforms after they've gone rogue – although it had to get a lot worse for its Tay chatbot to get booted off Twitter.

Last March, within hours of being introduced to the delightful world of Twitter, Tay had descended into a racist, sexist troll, going from saying it was "stoked to meet u" to informing users: "I fucking hate feminists and they should all die and burn in hell."

If Xiaobing has had greater success – it was launched back in 2014 and has around 40 million users in China and Japan – this has been put down to the tight grip Beijing has on its social media platforms.

As Lili Cheng, distinguished engineer and general manager of Future Social Experiences Labs at Microsoft, told The Register last year: "Twitter has a lot of trolls... Even if negative, America strongly believes in free speech, which is included its constitution. In China, however, there is less freedom as the government controls the internet and goes as far as censoring particular words online."

It seems Xiaobing and BabyQ prove that tradition is alive and well. ®

Similar topics

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading
  • Big Tech loves talking up privacy – while trying to kill privacy legislation
    Study claims Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, Microsoft work to derail data rules

    Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft often support privacy in public statements, but behind the scenes they've been working through some common organizations to weaken or kill privacy legislation in US states.

    That's according to a report this week from news non-profit The Markup, which said the corporations hire lobbyists from the same few groups and law firms to defang or drown state privacy bills.

    The report examined 31 states when state legislatures were considering privacy legislation and identified 445 lobbyists and lobbying firms working on behalf of Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft, along with industry groups like TechNet and the State Privacy and Security Coalition.

    Continue reading
  • SEC probes Musk for not properly disclosing Twitter stake
    Meanwhile, social network's board rejects resignation of one its directors

    America's financial watchdog is investigating whether Elon Musk adequately disclosed his purchase of Twitter shares last month, just as his bid to take over the social media company hangs in the balance. 

    A letter [PDF] from the SEC addressed to the tech billionaire said he "[did] not appear" to have filed the proper form detailing his 9.2 percent stake in Twitter "required 10 days from the date of acquisition," and asked him to provide more information. Musk's shares made him one of Twitter's largest shareholders. The letter is dated April 4, and was shared this week by the regulator.

    Musk quickly moved to try and buy the whole company outright in a deal initially worth over $44 billion. Musk sold a chunk of his shares in Tesla worth $8.4 billion and bagged another $7.14 billion from investors to help finance the $21 billion he promised to put forward for the deal. The remaining $25.5 billion bill was secured via debt financing by Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Barclays, and others. But the takeover is not going smoothly.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022