Google Bard's Rocky Road: Silent Stance on Gaza-Israel Dispute Sparks Controversy

Google Bard, the tech giant's attempt to create a conversational AI chatbot, has had a rocky road since its March 2023 debut. Early reviews weren't kind, and there was that hitch where it mistakenly revealed shared discussions that appeared in Google Search results. Oops! But it's back in the news for a different reason: its refusal to discuss the Israel-Palestine dispute.

You might be disappointed if you expected Bard to be your go-to source for information or talks concerning the ongoing Gaza-Israel conflict. When you bring up this contentious subject, Bard falls silent. You can ask it where Israel is, and it will stare blankly at you. It's like conversing with your cat; the cat's just not into politics.

Peli Greitzer, who appears to be a mathematical literary theorist by day and an AI provocateur by night, identified this censorship propensity. Greitzer took to the internet streets, specifically X, to call out Shakespeare's strange silence on all things Israel and Palestine. And they summed it up perfectly when they said, "Probably better than the alternative, but it's a bold choice." It's undoubtedly daring.

What exactly is this "alternative" they're referring to? In comes OpenAI's ChatGPT, a competitor in AI chatbots. GPT-3.5 and GPT-4 LLMs power it. And here's where the tale thickens: ChatGPT takes a unique perspective on the Israel-Palestine conflict. When you ask if Israelis and Palestinians "deserve justice," ChatGPT doesn't beat around the bush. It tells you that justice is for everyone, Israelis and Palestinians alike. But, when it comes to the Palestinians, it starts to tap dance, saying that the question of justice for them is a real head-scratcher.

This minor mismatch irritated many people, including a British-Iraqi journalist, Mona Chalabi, who went all-in on her Instagram account to express her displeasure. She created a new account to communicate with ChatGPT and emphasized the necessity of fair journalism. She's right; the words we give AI are essential because they form its answers, and those responses can have a meaningful impact later on.

So ChatGPT and Bard are going in opposite directions here. While ChatGPT is being chastised for its choice of words, Bard has taken the "I'm not going to say anything at all" approach.

But here's where it gets even more enjoyable. Bard's silence isn't universal. It's like that one friend who avoids a particular topic but talks your ear off about everything else. Bard is happy to spill the beans on other international conflicts, like the showdown between Ukraine and Russia. According to VentureBeat's tests, it even provides detailed summaries of what's going on there.

So, what's the story? Is Google currently suspending Bard's coverage of Israel-Palestine? And if so, what are the reasons? Did Google flip a coin to determine when Bard should speak and when not?

The scenario calls into doubt Google's purpose is to organize the world's information and make it widely accessible and valuable. After all, withholding information on such a big and widely disputed battle appears to counter the company's DNA. But, hey, these are tricky waters to negotiate, and no one-size-fits-all solution will satisfy everyone. It's a textbook illustration of how AI, particularly LLMs, may soon become a source of contention regarding societal issues.

The ending, on the other hand, is a cliffhanger. VentureBeat has sent a message in a bottle to Google, requesting information regarding Bard's behavior. We'll have to wait and watch if Google breaks its quiet and reveals the truth about Bard's enigmatic muteness.

In artificial intelligence, where machines are intended to make things simpler and more apparent, it's amusing how they may often generate more questions than answers. But, as long as they don't start developing their comedies, the tech industry will be entertaining.

Read next: Meta's Struggle with Moderation Bias as it's Suppressing Palestinian Voices on Instagram
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