China’s Baidu launches AI chatbot following government approval

Chinese tech firm, Baidu, along with other domestic tech firms, launched its artificial intelligence (AI) product on Thursday after receiving government approval as China accelerates AI deployment.

Baidu, China’s leading online search provider, said in a statement its ChatGPT-like AI chatbot Ernie Bot would be fully open to the general public.

Additionally, two AI startups, Baichuan Intelligent Technology and Zhipu AI, also said their chatbots would be officially launched on Thursday.

All three said their products had received government approval.

Unlike in Western countries where AI products can be launched without regulatory approval, China requires companies to submit security assessments and get clearance before releasing mass-market AI products, Reuters reported.

Authorities have recently accelerated efforts to support companies to develop AI as the technology increasingly becomes a focus of competition with the US.

Chinese media reported that a total of 11 firms had received approvals from the government, including TikTok maker ByteDance and SenseTime Group. Neither company immediately responded to requests for comment.

Regulatory approvals were widely anticipated after China published a set of interim rules aimed at regulating generative AI products for the public that went into effect on August 15.

Previously, companies were only allowed to conduct small-scale public tests of AI products but with the new rules, companies have widened their AI product tests by enabling more features and engaging in more marketing.

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