Report Reveals Hong Kong Users Face Restrictions as Microsoft, OpenAI, and Google Limit Access to AI Chatbot Technology

Google, OpenAI, and Microsoft, three prominent tech giants, have recently imposed limitations on their chatbots powered by generative AI and related technology in Hong Kong. The motive behind this decision is rooted in concerns regarding the influence of China and its potential impact on upholding an open Internet environment within the region.

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal highlights an ongoing pattern in which companies based in the United States restrict user access from Hong Kong. Notably, OpenAI's decision aligns mainland China and Hong Kong with countries like Iran, Syria, and North Korea, where similar restrictions on accessing these technologies are in place.

Despite the lack of official disclosure from the companies regarding the rationale behind the imposed restrictions, experts in the industry speculate that the restrictions are a precautionary step taken to minimize potential legal liabilities. The concern revolves around the possibility of the AI chatbots generating content that inadvertently violates the nationally implemented security law of China, which came into effect approximately three years ago. This law specifically criminalizes different types of government criticism and expressions of dissent.

Apart from the restrictions placed on AI chatbots, several other companies have implemented measures to control the content accessible in Hong Kong. For instance, Apple made revisions to its internet browser privacy policy in the previous year, explicitly addressing the possibility of employing a tool created by the Chinese company Tencent. The primary objective of this tool is to alert users in Hong Kong about potential links that could be malicious in nature.

Disney has exercised caution in its approach by deciding against including two of the episodes of the show known as "The Simpsons", which is available on Hong Kong's streaming service. The reason behind this choice lies in the content of these episodes, which includes criticisms directed at the government of China.

Users in Hong Kong have raised concerns about instances where Tencent's tool has briefly prevented them from reaching authorized websites from Western countries These websites include Mastodon, a social media competitor to Twitter, as well as GitLab and Coinbase.

A survey conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong in March 2023 shed light on the sentiment regarding Hong Kong's future internet access. The findings of the survey indicated that 38% of the participants held a positive outlook or were highly hopeful regarding Hong Kong's capacity to sustain unrestricted connectivity to the world wide web in the coming 3 years.

The findings of this survey hold notable importance in the context of the tense connection between China and the U.S. The ongoing disputes between the two nations have already had substantial impacts on over 80% of businesses operating in Hong Kong, with more than 59% of them expressing pessimism regarding the future of China and United States connections.

The stringent investment policies imposed by the United States on American Chamber of Commerce members investing in China have had far-reaching implications for businesses worldwide. This has prompted companies to reevaluate their long-term operations in China, as well as reconsider their supply chain strategies. The impact of these policies on businesses has been far-reaching and has further fueled concerns about the future trajectory of U.S.-China relations.

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