News & Events, Tech

Did you know that censorship can influence AI?

It completely changes word meanings.

words by: Sahar Khraibani
Mar 6, 2021

Artificial Intelligence is officially a part of our daily lives, and it is absolutely here to stay. New studies have been popping up to understand this new tool’s significance in our lives, the digital age, and how it can influence our future. Apparently, a recent study found that algorithms are learning to associate certain words with others. When linked with censorship, especially in the age of social media, new alternatives can basically affect how certain words are viewed. For example, the word “democracy” can both be associated with “stability” or “chaos,” depending on who’s reading.


This study revealed that government censorship plays an especially critical role and affects AI algorithms in ways that we may not be able to grasp yet. The political science professor at UC San Diego, Margaret Roberts, and Eddie Yang, a PhD student there, have been studying AI language algorithms based on two sources: the Chinese-language version of Wikipedia, that is blocked within China; and Baidu Baike, a website operated by China’s dominant search engine, which is censored by the government.


The pair found out that the closer words appear side by side, the more similar their meaning is. This makes it so that when censorship is applied, new meanings can be given to certain words that can make them be perceived as negative. It’s crazy to think of objectivity in the age of social media, and it seems that more and more we are being unable to control the algorithm before it controls us.


Photo via Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch