Hong Kong Residents Locked Out Of US Big Tech AI: Report

Big Tech in the United States is reportedly blocking Hong Kong residents from accessing artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots.

Google, Microsoft and OpenAI have all placed limits on their AI tools in recent months, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported Monday (June 12).

None of the companies have explained the restrictions, and they declined to comment to the WSJ on their operations in Hong Kong. PYMNTS has reached out to all three firms for comment but has not yet received a reply.

One possible reason is the concern that the companies could find themselves at risk if their chatbots violate China’s national security law, which forbids many forms of government criticism, according to the report.

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Charles Mok, a former Hong Kong lawmaker and visiting scholar at the Cyber Policy Center at Stanford University, told the WSJ that this could happen if the chatbots offered up unexpected answers to questions in ways that violate the law.

Some residents in Hong Kong have been able to access the chatbots via third-party apps and through virtual private networks (VPNs), the report stated.

OpenAI’s restriction puts Hong Kong in the companies of countries like North Korea and Russia, where the company’s ChatGPT is banned, according to the report.

China has intensified its scrutiny of deepfake technology due to a rise in AI-driven fraud. Concerns about this threat were illustrated by a case in which a man was duped into giving money to a scammer using AI to pose as a friend.

There’s also concern that Hong Kong’s largely unrestricted internet is being pushed closer to China’s, whose “Great Firewall” system provides stringent censorship, the WSJ reported.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong has been taking measures to reinvent itself into a hub for cryptocurrencies.

That’s happening even as the digital asset sector and regulators find themselves at odds elsewhere in Asia, with crypto still banned in mainland China.

“Providing clear regulatory expectations is the key to fostering responsible development,” said Julia Leung, CEO of Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission.