OpenAI to pull plug on 'unsupported' nations – cough, China – from July 9

It’s not entirely clear what actions the ChatGPT maker plans to take, if any

ChatGPT developer OpenAI has sent out emails to users based in countries it considers "unsupported," saying it will block their access for good starting July 9.

The email, reproduced on the OpenAI community forum here, includes a brief statement. "Our data shows that your organization has API traffic from a region that OpenAI does not currently support," it reads. "We will be taking additional measures to block API traffic from regions that are not on our supported countries and territories list starting on July 9."

"To continue using OpenAI's services, you will need to access the service in a supported region," it concludes.

Much of the world has access to OpenAI including virtually the entire West, most of Eastern Europe, South Asia, and about half of Africa. However, there are some notable absences on the list such as Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and mainland China.

OpenAI's full list of supported countries does not include China, Iran, North Korea, or Russia.

The four countries have all been on OpenAI's radar for some time now. In February, the AI company announced it had shut down accounts it claims were used by "state-affiliated malicious actors" from the four countries, saying they had used ChatGPT to help with phishing attacks and developing malware. Last month, OpenAI cracked down on another group of accounts, this time from China, Russia, Iran, and Israel.

However, rising tensions between the US and China could be a motivating factor in OpenAI's decision to crack down on unsupported users. The US has levied sanctions and tariffs against China since the Trump administration including President Biden's increased tariffs on Chinese chips, batteries, and electric vehicles.

In response, China has ramped up efforts to achieve technological autarky, mandating its telecommunications firms to stop using CPUs from Intel and AMD by 2027, and for its car manufacturers to buy at least a quarter of their computer processors domestically by 2025.

We asked OpenAI about the consequences for users in unsupported regions, but have not yet heard back.

The impact of OpenAI enforcing its list of supported (and unsupported) countries would undoubtedly have a negative impact on developers in China, though it might cut both ways. Users of cloud platform firm Vercel, which is based in the US, apparently received the very same OpenAI email if they were accessing OpenAI via Vercel's edge network, according to a Reddit post.

It's not clear whether the email was sent in error, but Vercel's edge network does have a region based in Hong Kong, which, like mainland China, is unsupported. OpenAI may no longer run on Vercel's Hong Kong servers, potentially affecting users.

The Register asked Vercel for clarification, but the company did not respond. ®

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