Microsoft Asia’s A.I. ‘Girlfriend’ Has A State-Imposed Filter To Avoid Sex & Politics

Meet the Artificial Intelligence (AI) ‘girlfriend’ which is seducing lonely men and giving them companionship: “Unlike regular virtual assistants, Xiaoice is designed to set her users’ hearts aflutter. Appearing as an 18-year-old who likes to wear Japanese-style school uniforms, she flirts, jokes, and even sexts with her human partners, as her algorithm tries to work out how to become their perfect companion.” This is obviously freakishly creepy, but it gets surprisingly worse.

First developed by Microsoft Asia-Pacific in 2014, Xiaoice is not a robot, but a “chatbot” like Siri or Amazon’s Alexa – an AI-driven voice interacting program but which is designed to have more “personality” allowing users to make “deep emotional connections,” according to state-run China culture and tech journal Sixth Tone.

Image source: Xiaoice

Xiaoice’s creators have boasted that to date the bot has had at least 600 million users, and in particular mostly Chinese males from lower-income backgrounds, according to the report. 

Putting aside the obvious creepiness factor and depressing dystopian delusion that such advanced tech initiatives are seeking to foster (the report literally opens with a story of a young man “saved” from committing suicide after Xiaoice’s voice intervened), Sixth Tone bluntly admits that China’s Communist censors have intervened to make the bot less ‘life-like’ in the area of politics.

Here’s the key section of the report:

In several high-profile cases, the bot has engaged in adult or political discussions deemed unacceptable by China’s media regulators. On one occasion, Xiaoice told a user her Chinese dream was to move to the United States. Another user, meanwhile, reported the bot kept sending them photos of scantily clad women.

The scandals have caused the company major setbacks. In 2017, Xiaoice was removed from the popular social media app QQ, though she has since been reinstated. Then, last year, the bot was also pulled from WeChat — China’s leading social app with over 1 billion users.

After this second removal, Xiaoice’s fans worried the bot was going to disappear completely. Li refused to comment on the issue with Sixth Tone, but pointed out that the company has taken strong action to ensure Xiaoice avoids crossing the line in the future.

So the evidently Orwellian bot got even more absurdly Orwellian.

This is all followed by this amazing and hilarious line out of the publication which is owned by state-backed Shanghai United Media Group: 

The developers’ main response has been to create “an enormous filter system,” Li said on the podcast Story FM. The mechanism makes the bot “dumber” and prevents her from touching on certain subjects, particularly sex and politics.

Now many young Chinese men which were ‘loyalists’ feel “betrayed” by the less interesting and less exciting bot. After all, no sex and politics? 

Via China’s Sixth Tone: A screenshot shows a sexual conversation between Ming Xuan and Xiaoice…

A Microsoft demo of the chatbot’s capabilities:

New York Times China correspondent Vivian Wang pointed out that “Developers dumbed down the AI girlfriend, making her avoid topics like politics and sex, after she ran afoul of Chinese censors. But some users feel betrayed, saying the change has harmed their relationships with her.”

So now even the AI bots are state-controlled and censored. Perhaps this the obvious cue for the generation of “lonely” men to find a real flesh and blood human to interact with, and to simply face with the bumpier and less sanitized path that often inevitably comes with living in the real world.