Baidu strongly denies rumor of link between its AI tool and China’s military research

(Global Times) 08:02, January 16, 2024

China's tech giant Baidu on Monday strongly denied allegations of ties between its generative artificial intelligence (AI) product and China's military research after some media outlets claimed the company's ChatGPT-like ERNIE Bot was engaged in the training of the AI system of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China, leading to Baidu's shares plunging by around 10 percent.

The South China Morning Post reported on Friday that a university affiliated with the PLA Strategic Support Force was teaching its experimental AI system more about facing unpredictable human enemies by testing the AI system with the help of Baidu's large language model ERNIE Bot.

"Baidu has not engaged in any business collaboration or provided any tailored service to authors of the academic paper or any institutions with which they are affiliated," Baidu told the Global Times on Monday, emphasizing that ERNIE Bot is available to and can be used by the general public.

The basis of the report is a research paper published in the Chinese academic journal Command Control &Simulation in December 2023 by researchers from the PLA's Information Engineering University, where researchers used the US military invasion of Libya in 2011 as an example. They input the forces and weapons deployment of both sides of the conflict, as well as the desired targets in order for ERNIE Bot, which debuted in 2023, to predict the US army's combat strategy.

Baidu said that the academic paper mentioned several large language models such as GPT3.5, GPT-3.5-turbo, GPT4, HTML-T5, and Baidu's ERNIE Bot and described how the authors received responses from them, emphasizing that the functions used by the authors are available to any user interacting with generative AI tools.

"The South China Morning Post, the first media outlet that reported on this academic paper, has clarified and corrected its original media report," said the Chinese internet giant in a statement on Monday, vowing that the company will operate its AI related products and businesses in compliance with applicable laws and regulations and best corporate practices.

Earlier on Saturday, Baidu said, "We have no knowledge of the research project, and if our large language model was used, it would have been the version that is publicly available online".

Some media reported that the speculative link raised concerns that the US may consider imposing sanctions on Chinese firms as part of efforts to contain its geopolitical rival. Analysts criticized the unfounded claim, saying it has sparked baseless and unfounded suspicions, causing harm to Chinese companies.

"Some Western media always tend to spread the theory of so-called threat posed by China. Why don't they talk about the threats caused by ChatGPT developed by the US?" Song Zhongping, a TV commentator, told the Global Times on Monday.

(Web editor: Tian Yi, Liang Jun)


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