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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Jan. 14)

It 07:17 January 14, 2021

Chatbot controversy
: Lee Luda suspension sparks debate on ethical issues over AI

A Facebook-based artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot was temporarily suspended Monday amid criticism over its use of discriminatory and offensive language, as well as alleged leaking personal information. But the ripples from the chatbot, "Lee Luda" have continued to reverberate amid growing expectations that AI will be more widely adopted.

Lee Luda, developed by the local startup Scatter Lab, is an AI-driven chat service that mimics a 20-year-old woman. Designed to talk like a real person, the chatbot attracted over 400,000 users following its launch in December.

But the service became the subject of controversy after some male users were found to be using it to have sexual conversations and sharing tips on how to make it a sex slave. It also came under fire for making discriminatory comments on sexual minorities. The magnitude of the issue escalated further as the majority of users turned out to be teenagers. Apart from the controversy, Scatter Lab has been suspected of abusing the personal information of its users and not doing enough to protect such sensitive data.

The controversy with the chatbot has sparked a heated debate on the importance of ethics in dealing with AI. The most serious problem is that AI, which had been expected to contribute to human progress, might ultimately imbue hatred, discrimination and prejudice in future generations.

This incident should be a wakeup call for our society to become aware of the ethical issues associated with AI, a front-runner in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Also, it's necessary to have extensive discussions regarding ethical guidelines for the use of AI before coming up with countermeasures. Last month, the government laid out its first-ever ethical standards for AI featuring the following principles: maintenance of human dignity, the public benefit and the rightful purpose of technology. Lest we let these principles end up as empty slogans, experts and civic society should hurry to prepare realistic action plans to minimize negative side effects.

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