Without Tiananmen Square in ERNIE-ViLG, AI creates a new image of China

In China today, social media companies often have Exclusive list of sensitive words, built from both government guidelines and their own operational decisions. This means that any filters used by ERNIE-ViLG may differ from those used by Tencent-owned WeChat or Weibo, operated by Sina Corporation. Some of these platforms have been systematically check by the Toronto-based Citizen Lab research group.

Badiucao, a Chinese-Australian political cartoonist (who uses an alias for his artwork to protect his identity), was one of the first users to discover censorship in ERNIE-ViLG. Many of his artworks directly criticize the Chinese government or its political leaders, so here are some of the early incentives he included in the model. “Of course, I also intentionally explore its ecosystem. Since it’s new territory, I’m curious to see if the censors will catch up to it,” said Badiucao. “But [the result] quite embarrassing.”

As an artist, Badiucao disagrees with any form of censorship in these AIs, including DALL-E 2’s approach, because he believes he should be the one to decide what’s possible. acceptable in their own art. Still, he cautioned that censorship due to ethical concerns should not be confused with censorship for political reasons. “It’s different when AI judges what it can’t produce based on generally agreed-upon ethical standards and when a government, as a third party, steps in and says you can’t do this. because it harms the country or the national government”. he says.

The difficulty in defining a clear line between censorship and censorship is also a result of differences between cultures and legal regime, says Giada Pistilli, lead ethicist at Hugging Face. For example, different cultures may interpret the same image differently. “When it comes to religious symbols, in France it is not allowed to appear in public and that is an expression of secularism,” says Pistilli. “When you come to America, secularism means that anything, like any religious symbol, is allowed.” In January, the Chinese government propose a new regulation ban any AI-generated content that “jeopardizes national security and social stability”, which will include AIs such as ERNIE-ViLG.

Pistilli said: “What might help in the case of ERNIE-ViLG is that the developer put out a document explaining the censorship decisions: “Is it censored because it’s the law that requires them to do so? are not? Are they doing it because they believe it is wrong? It always helps to explain our arguments, our choices. “

Despite the built-in censorship, ERNIE-ViLG will still play an important role in the development of large-scale text-to-image AI. The emergence of AI models trained on language-specific datasets explains some of the limitations of mainstream English-based models. It will especially help users who need an AI that understands the Chinese language and can produce accurate images accordingly.

Just as China’s social media platforms have thrived despite severe censorship, ERNIE-ViLG and other Chinese AI models may end up encountering the same thing: they’re too useful useful to give up.

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