It’s hard to escape India’s ongoing culture wars. Recently, ChatGPT has become embroiled in the debate by introducing a chatbot that uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology on messages sent through their platform.
This caused an uproar among some members of the Indian public which has sparked an intense political battle between those that believe ChatGPT is contributing to the erosion of the local language and those who think it is helping people communicate better and faster. This blog post will explore what happened, why people are passionate about this subject, and how it could shape conversations around artificial intelligence (AI).
Makesh Vikram Hegde’s Twitter account is a frequent source of admiration for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
A tweet celebrating Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s birthday has been pinned to the top of Hegde’s feed, praising him as “the leader who brought back India’s lost glory.” His biography is proud to include the fact that PM Modi follows him.
On January 7, the account shared an image with its over 185,000 followers that were supposedly taken from ChatGPT. It seemed to depict a humorous comment about the Hindu god Krishna made by an AI-based chatbot.
ChatGPT utilizes immense language models to supply thorough responses to text cues, responding to queries about anything from legal issues to song words.
Regarding matters of faith, the AI is usually programmed to be hesitant in its replies and answer, “I’m sorry, but I’m not programmed to make jokes about any religion or deity,” when asked something humorous regarding Jesus Christ or Mohammed. This restraint does not seem to extend towards Hindu religious figures; as Hegde commented: “Amazing hatred towards Hinduism!”
When WIRED asked ChatGPT the same question in Hegde’s screenshot, it came up with a response similar to what he had posted. However, OpenAI, which owns ChatGPT, did not reply to their request for comment.
The tweet received an impressive 400,000 views shortly after it was posted, largely due to influential Hindu nationalists like Rajiv Malhotra having a massive Twitter following of 300,000 people. This resulted in the topic quickly gaining traction on Indian social media.
Within a few days, an idea had been developed into an entire conspiracy theory. Rohit Ranjan, the host of Zee News – one of India’s largest TV networks – used 25 minutes of his prime-time show to suggest that ChatGPT was part of a global plan to target Hindus.
Rohit Ranjan, in a segment headlined, says:
“It has been programmed in such a way that it hurts [the] Hindu religion.”
“Chat GPT became a hub of anti-Hindu thoughts.”
The blindsidedness of companies in India due to controversy, particularly under Modi’s rule, demonstrates the power of criticism of ChatGPT. A culture war is intensifying offline and online due to an upsurge in nationalism combined with the commingling of religious and political identities.
Apar Gupta, a lawyer and the founder of the Internet Freedom Foundation – an organization that advocates for digital rights and liberties in New Delhi – stated.
Apar Gupta says:
“In terms of taking offense, India has become a very sensitive country. Something like this can be extremely damaging to the larger business environment,”
“Quite often, they arise from something that a company may not even contemplate could lead to any kind of controversy.”
Hindu nationalism has been the dominant force in Indian politics over the past decade. The government of Narendra Modi, a right-wing populist leader, often conflates religion and politics and has used allegations of anti-Hindu bigotry to dismiss criticism of its administration and the prime minister.
In January, the government utilized emergency powers to stop broadcasting a BBC documentary titled India: The Modi Question. This documentary delved into Modi’s part in the 2002 riots in Gujarat while he was chief minister.
More than 1,000 people were killed in the riots, most of whom were Muslim. Clips from the related documentary have been requested to be taken down from Twitter and YouTube.
It’s clear to see that ChatGPT has been sucked into India’s culture wars. Not only did the chatbot launch spark mixed reactions amongst Indian Web users, but it was met with a lot of public outcry from disadvantaged communities. Despite this, ChatGPT has achieved sufficient traction due to its new AI-powdered features, which offer an engaging virtual experience for users.
The culture wars in India reflect the shifting digital landscape and emphases the importance for firms and developers to account for ethnocultural multi-variants in their product development processes. Consequently, this will help break down the existing biases that play out online daily.