Sure, why not: China built a chatbot based on Xi Jinping

Chatting it up with a fake ScarJo not doing it for you? Why not try a conversation with the leader of China? There’s a new chatbot in town and it's based on Xi Jinping. As a matter of fact, it was trained using the ‘thoughts’ of the Chinese leader. I put thoughts in quotes because researchers didn’t use some kind of new mind-reading technology. Chinese officials just used a bunch of his books and papers for training purposes, according to a report by The Financial Times.

His political philosophy is collectively known as “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” or, simply, “Xi Jinping Thought.” This ideological doctrine has been created during his tenure as leader of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). With that in mind, the chatbot was trained on official literature that falls under that umbrella, including more than 12 books allegedly written by Xi Jinping himself. The training set also includes government regulations, policy documents, state media reports and other official publications.

A single document examined by The Financial Times used to train the chatbot contained over 86,000 mentions of Xi Jinping, with language that urges citizens to “ensure that in thought, politics, and action, we are always in high alignment with the Party Central Committee with General Secretary Xi Jinping at its core.” This chatbot must be really fun at parties.

The technology hasn’t rolled out to the general public yet. It’s being used at a research center under the purview of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), though it may eventually be released for wider use. The model can answer questions, create reports, summarize information and translate between Chinese and English. It’s a basic chatbot, though one that’s likely to disseminate Xi’s ideas on politics, economics and culture.

This move comes amid extensive efforts by Chinese officials to promote the philosophies of Xi and his authoritarian state. As previously mentioned, more than a dozen books are attributed to the leader and they typically take center stage at the country’s book fairs. Popular news apps from companies like Tencent and Netease reserve slots at the top of feeds for articles from official state media, and most of these posts feature Xi. Children as young as ten are required to study his political philosophy, so the chatbot could find a use there.

The major Western AI models aren't available in China, as the CAC mandates that generative AI providers “embody core socialist values” and that the output from any chatbot must not “contain any content that subverts state power.” So there’s no ChatGPT, Google Gemini or anything like that. Chinese companies like Baidu and Alibaba must ensure that their models strictly control generated content related to Xi or any sensitive issue.

This is a huge challenge for these companies, as most groups train their models with some English language data. This introduces the potential for responses that run afoul of the country’s speech regulations. To get around this, Chinese chatbots will typically restart the chat when asked about sensitive topics. The country is, however, leading the way in the “chatbots based on deceased relatives” department. With that in mind, Xi Jinping could very well espouse his philosophy from now until the end of time.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/sure-why-not-china-built-a-chatbot-based-on-xi-jinping-155828456.html?src=rss

US House passes TICKET Act to force event pricing transparency

On Wednesday, the US House of Representatives passed a bill that could provide at least some accountability for Ticketmaster and other live event vendors. NBC News reports the TICKET Act (not to be confused with the Senate’s separate bill with the same try-hard acronym) would mandate that ticket sellers list upfront the total cost of admission — including all fees — to buyers.

In addition to the full pricing breakdown, the bill would require sellers to indicate whether the tickets are currently in their possession. It would also ban deceptive websites from secondary vendors and force sellers to refund tickets to canceled events. The bill doesn’t appear to address price gouging or extravagant fees.

It now moves to the Senate, which is floating two separate event-reform bills: the other TICKET Act and a bipartisan Fans First Act. The latter was introduced in December to strengthen the 2016 BOTS Act that bars the use of bots to buy tickets, a practice that Taylor Swift fans (among others) can attest is still all too common.

Reforming the ticketing industry became a political point-scoring item in late 2022 after Ticketmaster’s Taylor Swift fiasco. The Live Nation-owned service, which has a stronghold on the industry, melted down as millions of fans battled “a staggering number” of bots. Ticketmaster said presale codes reached 1.5 million fans, but 14 million (including those pesky bots) tried to buy tickets.

Live Nation President and CFO Joe Berchtold testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee in January 2023, where he largely passed the buck to Congress to fix the mess. He suggested the government strengthen the BOTS Act, which one of the Senate’s bills would try to do. During the hearing, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) needled the executive for dodging blame, accusing the company of pointing the finger at everyone but itself.

Representatives Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) issued a joint statement on Wednesday about the House’s TICKET Act. “This consensus legislation will end deceptive ticketing practices that frustrate consumers who simply want to enjoy a concert, show, or sporting event by restoring fairness and transparency to the ticket marketplace,” the group wrote. “After years of bipartisan work, we will now be able to enhance the customer experience of buying event tickets online. We look forward to continuing to work together to urge quick Senate passage so that we can send it to the President’s desk to be signed into law.”

Artists publicly supporting legislation to combat the ticketing industry’s failures include (among others) Billie Eilish, Lorde, Green Day, Cyndi Lauper, Jason Mraz and Dave Matthews. “We are joining together to say that the current system is broken: predatory resellers and secondary platforms engage in deceptive ticketing practices to inflate ticket prices and deprive fans of the chance to see their favorite artists at a fair price,” a joint letter from over 250 musicians reads.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/us-house-passes-ticket-act-to-force-event-pricing-transparency-202852148.html?src=rss

US House passes TICKET Act to force event pricing transparency

On Wednesday, the US House of Representatives passed a bill that could provide at least some accountability for Ticketmaster and other live event vendors. NBC News reports the TICKET Act (not to be confused with the Senate’s separate bill with the same try-hard acronym) would mandate that ticket sellers list upfront the total cost of admission — including all fees — to buyers.

In addition to the full pricing breakdown, the bill would require sellers to indicate whether the tickets are currently in their possession. It would also ban deceptive websites from secondary vendors and force sellers to refund tickets to canceled events. The bill doesn’t appear to address price gouging or extravagant fees.

It now moves to the Senate, which is floating two separate event-reform bills: the other TICKET Act and a bipartisan Fans First Act. The latter was introduced in December to strengthen the 2016 BOTS Act that bars the use of bots to buy tickets, a practice that Taylor Swift fans (among others) can attest is still all too common.

Reforming the ticketing industry became a political point-scoring item in late 2022 after Ticketmaster’s Taylor Swift fiasco. The Live Nation-owned service, which has a stronghold on the industry, melted down as millions of fans battled “a staggering number” of bots. Ticketmaster said presale codes reached 1.5 million fans, but 14 million (including those pesky bots) tried to buy tickets.

Live Nation President and CFO Joe Berchtold testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee in January 2023, where he largely passed the buck to Congress to fix the mess. He suggested the government strengthen the BOTS Act, which one of the Senate’s bills would try to do. During the hearing, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) needled the executive for dodging blame, accusing the company of pointing the finger at everyone but itself.

Representatives Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) issued a joint statement on Wednesday about the House’s TICKET Act. “This consensus legislation will end deceptive ticketing practices that frustrate consumers who simply want to enjoy a concert, show, or sporting event by restoring fairness and transparency to the ticket marketplace,” the group wrote. “After years of bipartisan work, we will now be able to enhance the customer experience of buying event tickets online. We look forward to continuing to work together to urge quick Senate passage so that we can send it to the President’s desk to be signed into law.”

Artists publicly supporting legislation to combat the ticketing industry’s failures include (among others) Billie Eilish, Lorde, Green Day, Cyndi Lauper, Jason Mraz and Dave Matthews. “We are joining together to say that the current system is broken: predatory resellers and secondary platforms engage in deceptive ticketing practices to inflate ticket prices and deprive fans of the chance to see their favorite artists at a fair price,” a joint letter from over 250 musicians reads.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/us-house-passes-ticket-act-to-force-event-pricing-transparency-202852148.html?src=rss

A group of TikTok creators are also suing the US government to stop a ban of the app

A group of TikTok creators have joined the legal fight to keep the app from being banned in the United States. Eight creators have sued the US government in an effort to block a law requiring TikTok's parent company ByteDance to sell the service. 

The lawsuit claims that the “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act” is unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment rights of the creators who depend on the platform. “They have found their voices, amassed significant audiences, made new friends, and encountered new and different ways of thinking—all because of TikTok’s novel way of hosting, curating, and disseminating speech,” it states. “The Act’s ban of TikTok threatens to deprive them, and the rest of the country, of this distinctive means of expression and communication.”

The lawsuit comes one week after TikTok filed its own lawsuit against the government. According to The Washington Post, the company is “covering” the legal fees for the creators participating in the latest suit. It’s also strategy that has worked for the company in the past. A group of Montana-based TikTok creators sued the state over an attempted statewide ban last year. That effort was ultimately successful and the ban never went into effect. The Montana creators were represented by the same law firm currently repping the eight creators involved in the latest suit.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/a-group-of-tiktok-creators-are-also-suing-the-us-government-to-stop-a-ban-of-the-app-181524472.html?src=rss

A group of TikTok creators are also suing the US government to stop a ban of the app

A group of TikTok creators have joined the legal fight to keep the app from being banned in the United States. Eight creators have sued the US government in an effort to block a law requiring TikTok's parent company ByteDance to sell the service. 

The lawsuit claims that the “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act” is unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment rights of the creators who depend on the platform. “They have found their voices, amassed significant audiences, made new friends, and encountered new and different ways of thinking—all because of TikTok’s novel way of hosting, curating, and disseminating speech,” it states. “The Act’s ban of TikTok threatens to deprive them, and the rest of the country, of this distinctive means of expression and communication.”

The lawsuit comes one week after TikTok filed its own lawsuit against the government. According to The Washington Post, the company is “covering” the legal fees for the creators participating in the latest suit. It’s also strategy that has worked for the company in the past. A group of Montana-based TikTok creators sued the state over an attempted statewide ban last year. That effort was ultimately successful and the ban never went into effect. The Montana creators were represented by the same law firm currently repping the eight creators involved in the latest suit.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/a-group-of-tiktok-creators-are-also-suing-the-us-government-to-stop-a-ban-of-the-app-181524472.html?src=rss

Chuck Schumer is dropping the ball on regulating AI

AI's capabilities are growing at tremendous speeds, and while that apparently warrants a ton of the United States' money for development, it doesn't seem to translate to a very obvious action: regulation. A bipartisan group of four senators, led by majority leader Chuck Schumer, have announced a legislative plan for AI that includes putting $32 billion towards research and development. But, it passes off the responsibility of devising regulatory measures around areas such as job eliminations, discrimination and copyright infringement to Senate committees. 

“It’s very hard to do regulations because AI is changing too quickly,” Schumer said in an interview published by The New York Times. Yet, in March, the European Parliament approved wide-ranging legislation for regulating AI that manages the obligations of AI applications based on what risks and effects they could bring. The European Union said it hopes to "protect fundamental rights, democracy, the rule of law and environmental sustainability from high-risk AI, while boosting innovation and establishing Europe as a leader in the field." 

Schumer seems to disagree with finding that balance, instead stating in the interview that investment into AI research and development "is sort of the American way — we are more entrepreneurial." 

For absolutely no reason at all and clearly not to hypothesize on reasons he avoided regulations, if you didn't know, one of Schumer's daughters works as a senior policy manager for Amazon, and the other one has worked for Meta (it's unclear if she still does). Furthermore, in May 2022, the New York Post reported that over 80 of Schumer's former employees held jobs in Big Tech at places such as Google and Apple.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/chuck-schumer-is-dropping-the-ball-on-regulating-ai-144957345.html?src=rss

Chuck Schumer is dropping the ball on regulating AI

AI's capabilities are growing at tremendous speeds, and while that apparently warrants a ton of the United States' money for development, it doesn't seem to translate to a very obvious action: regulation. A bipartisan group of four senators, led by majority leader Chuck Schumer, have announced a legislative plan for AI that includes putting $32 billion towards research and development. But, it passes off the responsibility of devising regulatory measures around areas such as job eliminations, discrimination and copyright infringement to Senate committees. 

“It’s very hard to do regulations because AI is changing too quickly,” Schumer said in an interview published by The New York Times. Yet, in March, the European Parliament approved wide-ranging legislation for regulating AI that manages the obligations of AI applications based on what risks and effects they could bring. The European Union said it hopes to "protect fundamental rights, democracy, the rule of law and environmental sustainability from high-risk AI, while boosting innovation and establishing Europe as a leader in the field." 

Schumer seems to disagree with finding that balance, instead stating in the interview that investment into AI research and development "is sort of the American way — we are more entrepreneurial." 

For absolutely no reason at all and clearly not to hypothesize on reasons he avoided regulations, if you didn't know, one of Schumer's daughters works as a senior policy manager for Amazon, and the other one has worked for Meta (it's unclear if she still does). Furthermore, in May 2022, the New York Post reported that over 80 of Schumer's former employees held jobs in Big Tech at places such as Google and Apple.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/chuck-schumer-is-dropping-the-ball-on-regulating-ai-144957345.html?src=rss

Biden administration quadruples import tariff for Chinese EVs

The United States is taking additional measures to quash China’s influence on its economy. The White House has announced a tremendous increase in tariffs on $18 billion worth of Chinese imports, including semiconductors, steel, aluminum and EVs. The latter’s tariff is set to increase fourfold, from 25 percent to 100 percent—a move that the White House claims “will protect American manufacturers.” The announcement further reported that China’s EV exports grew 70 percent between 2022 and 2023.

Other tariff increases, such as the jumps from 25 percent to 50 percent for semiconductors and solar cells, are also significant. Then there are batteries, which are getting a tariff raise from 7.5 percent to 25 percent. Medical products are also a part of this hike, with tariffs on needles and syringes increasing from zero percent to 50 percent.

The Biden administration stresses that American companies need a real shot at competing against Chinese imports. “China’s unfair trade practices concerning technology transfer, intellectual property, and innovation are threatening American businesses and workers. China is also flooding global markets with artificially low-priced exports,” the White House stated in a release. Biden’s decision builds on tariffs implemented by his predecessor and current election opponent, Donald Trump.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/biden-administration-quadruples-import-tariff-for-chinese-evs-130047911.html?src=rss

Climate protestors clash with police outside Tesla’s German gigafactory

Climate protestors in Germany broke through police barricades on Friday, amid clashes between activists and law enforcement. The protestors either made it onto (according to protestors) or near (according to local police) the grounds of a Tesla gigafactory in Grünheide, Germany, near Berlin. It’s part of a planned five-day demonstration ahead of a local government vote next week to determine whether Tesla’s plant can expand.

Wired flagged social media videos showing activists, many of whom have been camping out in treehouses in nearby forest encampments, running toward a Tesla building on the site. In addition, the German newspaper Welt said at least one person participating was injured. Police reportedly police used pepper spray and batons to try to thwart the crowd, and there were at least some arrests.

A spokesperson for one of the groups participating in the protests told Wired that they broke the police barriers and stormed the Tesla grounds. “Eight hundred people have entered the premises of the gigafactory,” Lucia Mende of Disrupt Tesla said. However, local police posted on X (Musk’s social media platform) that the activists only reached a field facing the site. “We have been able to prevent them from entering so far,” they posted.

GRUENHEIDE, GERMANY - MAY 10: Police confront environmental activists in a forest near the Tesla Gigafactory electric car factory on May 10, 2024 near Gruenheide, Germany. Activists have come from across Germany to demand a stop to plans by Tesla to expand the factory, which would involve cutting down at least 50 hectares of trees. Some locals also support the protest, citing stress to local groundwater reserves from the factory. (Photo by Axel Schmidt/Getty Images)
Axel Schmidt via Getty Images

At least at first glance, it’s easy to wonder why activists are pouring so much energy into fighting Tesla. After all, despite Musk’s increasingly unhinged right-wing conspiracy-mongering and Nazi-catering on X, other automakers pushing gas-guzzling cars seem like more appropriate targets (not to mention the fossil fuel companies spending big bucks on anti-climate-reform disinformation). However, several factors make the issues at the heart of the protests less simplistic.

A (nonbinding) vote in February showed Grünheide residents opposed the expansion by almost a two-to-one ratio. If for no other reason, the local government having a chance to brush aside the overwhelming will of the voters in the name of capitalism is enough to raise the eyebrows of anyone who balks at minority rule.

Wired notes the area is also one of the most water-scarce in Germany, and residents worry the gigafactory will drain the resource, leaving much less for the humans who live there. The plant could also pollute local water supplies.

Those fears appear to have merit: The plant is licensed to use 1.4 million cubic meters of water annually, and a separate Wired report from Tuesday noted that’s enough to supply for a large town. As for the contamination fears, Tesla was fined in 2019 by the EPA for several hazardous waste violations at a California factory. The company paid a grand total of $31,000 to settle. (Tesla had a market cap of almost $76 billion in 2019.)

But some of the groups protesting have concerns that go much farther than those more immediate issues affecting the locals, instead taking issue with the entire electric vehicle movement. “Companies like Tesla are there to save the car industry, they’re not there to save the climate,” Esther Kamm, spokesperson for Turn Off the Tap on Tesla told Wired.

Another activist, who only gave Wired the name Mara, described the factory as the result of “green capitalism.” She views the EV movement as little more than a theatrical performance in the name of profit. “This has been completely thought up by such companies to have more growth, even in times of an environmental crisis,” she said.

I wouldn’t exactly say flipping the bird to the EV movement is a “workable” solution to the very real and pressing climate crisis. Regardless of your thoughts on the matter, the world needs to move quickly to fend off climate change’s most ravaging effects, and the scientific consensus is that the planned shift to EVs will need to play a central role.

Tesla reportedly told its employees at the factory to work from home on Friday, shutting down the plants for the planned protests. As for Friday’s protests, Welt reports that the situation had calmed by afternoon — at least for now.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/climate-protestors-clash-with-police-outside-teslas-german-gigafactory-175726961.html?src=rss

US revokes Intel and Qualcomm’s licenses for chip sales to Huawei

The United States has taken further action to limit China's technological advancement, revoking licenses that allowed Intel and Qualcomm to buy and sell chips to Huawei Technologies, the Financial Times reports. The decision will impact chips Huawei uses for computers and mobile phones and is effective immediately.

Huawei has been on US trade restrictions lists since 2019 but has recently made progress that worries the US government, such as last month's AI-enabled laptop. "We continuously assess how our controls can best protect our national security and foreign policy interests, taking into consideration a constantly changing threat environment and technological landscape. As part of this process, as we have done in the past, we sometimes revoke export licenses," a spokesperson for the Department of Commerce stated. The spokesperson declined to say if companies other than Huawei were impacted. "But we can confirm that we have revoked certain licenses for exports to Huawei."

National security experts have accused Huawei of helping China to conduct cyber espionage. "China resolutely opposes the United States overstretching the concept of national security and abusing export controls to suppress Chinese companies without justification," the Chinese foreign ministry decreed in a statement. Huawei also denies the espionage claims.

"China resolutely opposes the United States overstretching the concept of national security and abusing export controls to suppress Chinese companies without justification," the Chinese foreign ministry decreed in a statement. National security experts have accused Huawei of helping China to conduct cyber espionage, which Huawei has denied. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/us-revokes-intel-and-qualcomms-licenses-for-chip-sales-to-huawei-125304886.html?src=rss