OpenAI will block people in China from using its services

The country wasn't supported to begin with, but OpenAI had never taken action before now.

REUTERS / Reuters

OpenAI plans to block people from using ChatGPT in China, a country where its services aren’t officially available, but where users and developers access it via the company’s API anyway. Securities Times, a Chinese state-owned newspaper reported on Tuesday that OpenAI had started sending emails to users in China outlining its plans to block access starting July 9, according to Reuters.

“We are taking additional taps to block API traffic from regions where we do not support access to OpenAI’s services,” an OpenAI spokesperson told the publication. The move could impact several Chinese startups which have built applications using OpenAI’s large language models.

Although OpenAI’s services are available in more than 160 countries, China isn’t one of them. According to the company’s guidelines, users trying to access the company’s products in unsupported countries could be blocked or suspended — although the company hasn’t explicitly done so until now.

It’s not clear what prompted OpenAI’s move. Last month, the company revealed that it stopped covert influence operations — including one that originated from China — that used its AI models to spread disinformation across the internet. Bloomberg pointed out that OpenAI’s move coincides with Washington's pressure on American tech companies to limit China’s access to cutting-edge technologies developed in the US.