The Download: how criminals use AI, and OpenAI’s Chinese data blunder


Artificial intelligence has brought a big boost in productivity—to the criminal underworld.

Generative AI provides a new, powerful tool kit that allows malicious actors to work far more efficiently and internationally than ever before. Over the past year, cybercriminals have mostly stopped developing their own AI models. Instead, they are opting for tricks with existing tools that work reliably.

That’s because criminals want an easy life and quick gains. For any new technology to be worth the unknown risks associated with adopting it—for example, a higher risk of getting caught—it has to be better and bring higher rewards than what they’re currently using. Melissa Heikkilä, our senior AI reporter, has rounded up five ways criminals are using AI now.

 OpenAI’s latest blunder shows the challenges facing Chinese AI models

Last week’s release of GPT-4o, a new AI “omnimodel”, was supposed to be a big moment for OpenAI. But just days later, it feels as if the company is in big trouble. From the resignation of most of its safety team to Scarlett Johansson’s accusation that it replicated her voice for the model against her consent, it’s now in damage-control mode.

On top of that, the data it used to train GPT-4o’s tokenizer—a tool that helps the model parse and process text more efficiently—is polluted by Chinese spam websites. As a result, the model’s Chinese token library is full of phrases related to pornography and gambling. This could worsen some problems that are common with AI models: hallucinations, poor performance, and misuse. 

But OpenAI is not the only company struggling with this problem: there are some steep challenges associated with training large language models to speak Chinese. Read our story to learn more.

—Zeyi Yang

This story is from China Report, our weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on tech in China. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Tuesday.

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