'Great Firewall': Chinese students use ChatGPT to cheat on school work

People who cannot access ChatGPT due to the Chinese firewall use the WeChat app, which charges one yuan (US$0.15) per query.
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The ChatGPT logo is seen in this illustration photo.

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Chinese students are bypassing the "Great Firewall" by utilizing OpenAI's ChatGPT to cheat on their school assignments more quickly.

The students are using the chatbot to write book reports and practice their language skills, according to a report by Agence France-Presse (AFP).

"My mum would stay up late until I finished all my homework, and we would fight constantly," Esther Chen, 11, a student, told AFP.

"Now, ChatGPT helps me to do the research quickly," she said, adding that the chatbot cut her home study time in half, and her sister Nicole uses it to learn English.

Esther, who studies in Shenzhen, a large metropolis in the south, expressed that she used to devote four to five hours a day to her homework.

Wang Jingjing, Esther's mother, asserted that she wasn't concerned.

"We've used a VPN for years. The girls are encouraged to read widely from different sources," she told AFP, adding that she closely monitors her daughter due to concerns of plagiarism. 

According to Beijing-based teacher Tim Wallace, the main argument around ChatGPT in classrooms is whether to allow it or not.

"Teachers use the tool to generate customized lesson plans within seconds," he said. "We can't tell students not to use it while using it ourselves."

Telling pupils to refrain from using technology when teachers do so themselves is difficult to sell. 

ChatGPT and China

ChatGPT has ignited a worldwide gold rush in artificial intelligence technology with its ability to produce A-grade essays, poems, and computer code in a matter of seconds.

Users can purchase a US number from one vendor for only 5.5 yuan ($0.8), while an Indian number costs less than one yuan.

Yet for individuals who are unable to mount the firewall, businesses like ChatGPT and AI Life on the popular WeChat app charge one yuan (US$0.15) for each query.

Chinese media last month reported key digital businesses, including WeChat's parent Tencent and rival Ant Group, had been forced to limit access to ChatGPT on their platforms, and state media lambasted it as a vehicle for propagating "foreign political propaganda."

Many Chinese tech companies, including Baidu, Alibaba, and JD.com, have announced they are working on ChatGPT competitors, said the AFP report.

China, though, has already signaled its intent to take action and has promised to announce new regulations for AI shortly.

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