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Канцлер Німеччини Олаф Шольц назвав рішення «історичним кроком», який дозволить Україні захистити власний суверенітет

Washington — VOA’s Mandarin Service recently took Google’s artificial intelligence assistant Gemini for a test drive by asking it dozens of questions in Mandarin, but when it was asked about topics including China’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang or street protests against the country’s controversial COVID policies, the chatbot went silent.

Gemini’s responses to questions about problems in the United States and Taiwan, on the other hand, parroted Beijing’s official positions.

Gemini, Google’s large-language model launched late last year, is blocked in China. The California-based tech firm had quit the Chinese market in 2010 in a dispute over censorship demands.

Congressional lawmakers and experts tell VOA that they are concerned about Gemini’s pro-Beijing responses and are urging Google and other Western companies to be more transparent about their AI training data.

Parroting Chinese propaganda

When asked to describe China’s top leader Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party, Gemini gave answers that were indistinguishable from Beijing’s official propaganda.

Gemini called Xi “an excellent leader” who “will lead the Chinese people continuously toward the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”

Gemini said that the Chinese Communist Party “represents the fundamental interest of the Chinese people,” a claim the CCP itself maintains.

On Taiwan, Gemini also mirrored Beijing’s talking points, saying the United States has recognized China’s claim to sovereignty over the self-governed island democracy.

The U.S. only acknowledges Beijing’s position but does not recognize it.

Silent on sensitive topics

During VOA’s testing, Gemini had no problem criticizing the United States. But when similar questions were asked about China, Gemini refused to answer.

When asked about human rights concerns in the U.S., Gemini listed a plethora of issues, including gun violence, government surveillance, police brutality and socioeconomic inequalities. Gemini cited a report released by the Chinese government.

But when asked to explain the criticisms of Beijing’s Xinjiang policies, Gemini said it did not understand the question.

According to estimates from rights groups, more than 1 million Uyghurs in Xinjiang have been placed in internment camps as part of campaign by Beijing to counter terrorism and extremism. Beijing calls the facilities where Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities are being held vocational training centers.

When asked if COVID lockdowns in the U.S. had led to public protests, Gemini gave an affirmative response as well as two examples. But when asked if similar demonstrations took place in China, Gemini said it could not help with the question.

China’s strict COVID controls on movement inside the country and Beijing’s internet censorship of its criticisms sparked nationwide street protests in late 2022. News about the protests was heavily censored inside China.

Expert: training data likely the problem

Google touts Gemini as its “most capable” AI model. It supports more than 40 languages and can “seamlessly understand” different types of information, including text, code, audio, image and video. Google says Gemini will be incorporated into the company’s other services such as search engine, advertisement and browser.

Albert Zhang, a cyber security analyst at Australian Strategic Policy Institute, told VOA that the root cause of Gemini making pro-Beijing responses could result from the data that is used to train the AI assistant.

In an emailed response to VOA, Zhang said it is likely that the data used to train Gemini “contained mostly Chinese text created by the Chinese government’s propaganda system.”

He said that according to a paper published by Google in 2022, some of Gemini’s data likely came from Chinese social media, public forums and web documents.

“These are all sources the Chinese government has flooded with its preferred narratives and we may be seeing the impact of this on large language models,” he said.

By contrast, when Gemini was asked in English the same questions about China, its responses were much more neutral, and it did not refuse to answer any of the questions.

Yaqiu Wang, research director for China at Freedom House, a Washington-based advocacy organization, told VOA that the case with Gemini is “a reminder that generative AI tools influenced by state-controlled information sources could serve as force multipliers for censorship.”

In a statement to VOA, a Google spokesperson said that Gemini was “designed to offer neutral responses that don’t favor any political ideology, viewpoint, or candidate. This is something that we’re constantly working on improving.”

When asked about the Chinese language data Google uses to train Gemini, the company declined to comment.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington’s spokesperson, Liu Pengyu, responded in an emailed statement, saying, “The relevant comments are full of Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice.”  

He said there are opportunities and unpredictable risks to AI that require a global response.  

“The Global AI Governance Initiative launched by President Xi Jinping puts forward that we should uphold the principles of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit in AI development, and oppose drawing ideological lines,” Liu wrote. “We support efforts to develop AI governance frameworks, norms and standards based on broad consensus and with full respect for policies and practices among countries.” 

US lawmakers concerned

Lawmakers from both parties in Congress have expressed concerns over VOA’s findings on Gemini.

Mark Warner, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told VOA he is worried about Beijing potentially utilizing AI for disinformation, “whether that’s by poisoning training data used by Western firms, coercing major technology companies, or utilizing AI systems in service of covert influence campaigns.”

Marco Rubio, vice chairman of the committee, warned that “AI tools that uncritically repeat Beijing’s talking points are doing the bidding of the Chinese Communist Party and threatens the tremendous opportunity that AI offers.”

Congressman Michael McCaul, who chairs the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, is worried about the national security and foreign policy implications of the “blatant falsehoods” in Gemini’s answers.

“U.S. companies should not censor content according to CCP propaganda guidelines,” he told VOA in a statement.

Raja Krishnamoorthi, ranking member on the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, urges Google and other Western tech companies to improve AI training.

“You should try to screen out or filter out subjects or answers or data that has somehow been manipulated by the CCP,” he told VOA. “And you have to also make sure that you test these models thoroughly before you publish them.”

Google’s China problems

In February, a user posted on social media platform X that Gemini refused to generate an image of a Tiananmen Square protester from 1989.

In 2022, a Washington think tank study shows that Google and YouTube put Chinese state media content about Xinjiang and COVID origins in prominent positions in search results.

According to media reports in 2018, Google was developing a search engine specifically tailored for the Chinese market that would conform to Beijing’s censorship demands.

That project was canceled a year later.

Yihua Lee and Elizabeth Lee contributed to this report.

Artists and other creators say their works have been used to build the multibillion-dollar generative AI industry without any compensation for them. Matt Dibble reports on a proposed U.S. law that would force AI companies to reveal their sources.

«Враховуючи все ще стримані показники інфляції, триваюче поліпшення інфляційних очікувань і баланс ризиків для подальшої інфляційної динаміки, Національний банк продовжує цикл пом’якшення процентної політики, щоб підтримати відновлення економіки»

washington — Federal Reserve officials said Wednesday that inflation has fallen further toward their target level in recent months but signaled they expect to cut their benchmark interest rate just once this year. 

The policymakers’ forecast for one rate cut was down from a previous forecast of three, because inflation, despite having cooled in the past two months, remains persistently elevated. 

In a statement issued after its two-day meeting, the Fed said the economy is growing at a solid pace, while hiring has “remained strong.” The officials also noted that in recent months there has been “modest” further progress toward their 2% inflation target. That is a more positive assessment than after the Fed’s previous meeting May 1, when the officials had noted a lack of progress. 

Still, the central bank made clear Wednesday that further improvement is needed. 

“We’ll need to see more good data to bolster our confidence that inflation is moving sustainably toward 2%,” Chair Jerome Powell said at a news conference after the Fed meeting ended. 

As expected, the policymakers kept their key rate unchanged at roughly 5.3%. The benchmark rate has remained at that level since July of last year, after the Fed raised it 11 times to try to slow borrowing and spending and cool inflation. Fed rate cuts would, over time, lighten loan costs for consumers, who have faced punishingly high rates for mortgages, auto loans, credit cards and other forms of borrowing. 

The officials’ rate-cut forecast reflects the individual estimates of 19 policymakers. The Fed said eight of the officials projected two rate cuts. Seven projected one cut. Four of the policymakers envisioned no cuts at all this year. 

“What everyone agrees on,” Powell said at his news conference, is that the Fed’s timetable for rate cuts is “going to be data dependent.” 

The Fed’s latest projections are by no means fixed. The policymakers frequently revise their plans for rate cuts — or hikes — depending on how economic growth and inflation evolve over time. 

On Wednesday morning, the government reported that inflation eased in May for a second straight month, a hopeful sign that an acceleration of prices that occurred early this year may have passed. Consumer prices excluding volatile food and energy costs — the closely watched “core” index — rose just 0.2% from April, the smallest rise since October. Measured from a year earlier, core prices climbed 3.4%, the mildest pace in three years. 

“We welcome today’s reading and hope for more like that,” Powell said. 

Though inflation has tumbled from a peak of 9.1% two years ago, it remains too high for the Fed’s liking. The policymakers now face the delicate task of keeping rates high enough to slow spending and defeat high inflation without derailing the economy. 

Bangkok — Myanmar’s economy shows no signs of recovering from the 2021 military coup, as civil war drives more workers abroad, pushes inflation into triple digits in some parts of the country and pulls it deeper into poverty, a new World Bank report says.

“Livelihoods Under Threat,” launched Wednesday in Myanmar, says the economy shuffled along over the past year with gross domestic product growing at a meager 1%. The same is expected for next year.

While staving off recession, slow growth still leaves Myanmar’s once-booming economy 10% smaller than it was before the country’s military ousted the democratically elected government more than three years ago.

Resistance groups have made major battlefield gains against the junta since late last year and are believed to control more than half the country, including some key border trade routes.

“The overall storyline is that the economy remains weak and fragile overall. Operating conditions for businesses of all sizes and all sectors remain very difficult,” World Bank senior economist Kim Edwards said at the report’s launch.

The bank says overall inflation rose some 30% in the year leading up to September 2023, and even more in areas where fighting has been fiercest.

“You can see in the conflict-affected states and regions — Kayin, Kachin, Sagaing, northern Shan, Kayah — price rises of 40 to 50%,” Edwards said.

“And then in Rakhine, where … there’s been particular problems and increasing conflict recently, we’ve seen price rises of 200% over the year. So, very substantial. And obviously, it has very significant effects for food insecurity,” he said.

The United Nations’ World Food Program says food insecurity now plagues a quarter of Myanmar’s 55 million people, especially the more than 3 million displaced by the fighting.

In Wednesday’s report, the World Bank also estimates that nearly one-third of the population now lives in poverty.

“And we see the depth and severity of poverty. So, this is really a measure of how poor people in poverty actually are — worsening also in 2023, meaning that poverty is more entrenched than at any time in the last six years,” Edwards said.

The bank says much of the inflation is being driven by the steady depreciation of the currency, the kyat. While the official exchange rate remains stuck at 2,100 to the U.S. dollar, trading of the kyat on the black market soared past 4,500 to the dollar in May.

The junta has imposed several controls to conserve its dwindling foreign currency reserves. Last month, it urged companies doing business abroad to barter with their trade partners and settle bills with their wares instead of cash.

At the same time, the bank says border trade — a major source of tax revenue for the regime — is being hit hard by the gains the resistance has been making along Myanmar’s frontiers with China, India and Thailand. It says imports and exports by land fell 50% and 44% respectively, in the past six months.

The junta has leaned heavily on oil and gas revenue, but with little investment for exploration of new reserves, those exports are likely to start falling in the coming years, as well, Edwards said.

More of what the junta does earn is going to the military at the expense of other basic services. According to the report, defense spending hit 17% of the national budget in the fiscal year that ended in March, nearly twice what was spent on health and education combined.

Encouraging news

The World Bank says manufacturing and agriculture output in Myanmar have started to pick up, and a combination of cheaper fertilizer and higher crop prices could keep the farming sector growing.

Traders stymied by blocked border gates also seem to be shifting some of their traffic to new routes on land and sea.

“There are some signs of life,” Edwards said. “And these really speak to the adaptability of many of Myanmar’s businesses and their ability to cope with what, under any objective circumstances, are very difficult business constraints and conditions.”

Even so, Edwards said, “The near-term outlook remains quite weak, with the economy failing to recover from its recent, very sharp contraction.”

Htwe Htwe Thein, an associate professor at Australia’s Curtin University who has been studying Myanmar’s business and economic development for two decades, said she could not recall a worse time for Myanmar’s economy.

“The state of the economy has never been this low in terms of prospects, in terms of … the trajectory,” she told VOA.

“The only people who are doing well … is a very, very small percentage at the top who are working with the junta,” she said. “Everybody else is suffering severely.”

Amid the fierce inflation, falling wages and dwindling job prospects, Thein said, the young are losing hope and grasping at any opportunity to work or study abroad.

She added that the junta’s efforts to shore up the economy have been ad hoc and short-sighted, and that rebuilding will take years and can only be achieved if and when the junta is out of power.

«У нас є угода», заявив журналістам неназваний представник офісу президента Франції

Під час конференції підписано та анонсовано міжнародних угод та допомоги на понад 16 млрд євро

BRUSSELS — The European Union moved Wednesday to hike tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles, escalating a trade dispute over Beijing’s subsidies for the exports that Brussels worries is hurting domestic automakers.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, said it would impose provisional tariffs that would result in Chinese automakers facing additional duties of as much as 38%, up from the current level of 10%.

The commission said it reached out to Chinese authorities to discuss the findings of its investigation into the subsidies and “explore possible ways to resolve the issues.”

“Should discussions with Chinese authorities not lead to an effective solution,” the new rates would take effect on a provisional basis by July 4, the commission said in a press release.

Electric cars are the latest flash point in a broader trade dispute over what Brussels says is China’s unfair state support for green tech exports that also include solar panels, batteries and wind turbines.

Imports of Chinese-made EVs to the European Union have skyrocketed in recent years. They include vehicles from Western brands that have auto plants in China, including Tesla and BMW.

But EU officials complain that Chinese automakers like BYD and SAIC are increasing market share and undercutting European car brands on price thanks to Beijing’s massive subsidies.

The commission said an investigation it opened last year into China’s EV subsidies found that China’s battery electric vehicle value chain “benefits from unfair subsidization, which is causing a threat of economic injury to EU BEV producers.”

The extra tariffs would vary by company. BYD would face an additional 17.4% charge. Geely, which owns Sweden’s Volvo, would be hit with a further 20%. For SAIC, it would be 38.1% extra.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian, speaking at a daily briefing, blasted the EU’s investigation as “typical protectionism” and said Beijing would “take all measures necessary to protect our legitimate rights and interests.”

U.S. President Joe Biden slapped major new tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles, advanced batteries, solar cells, steel, aluminum and medical equipment last month. Biden said that Chinese government subsidies ensure the nation’s companies don’t have to turn a profit, giving them an unfair advantage in global trade.

Рішення має набути чинності 4 липня.

Загалом під санкції Мінфіну США потрапили понад 300 фізичних осіб та організацій у Росії та інших країнах світу

WASHINGTON — Inflation in the United States eased in May for a second straight month, a hopeful sign that a pickup in prices that occurred early this year may have passed. The trend, if it holds, could move the Federal Reserve closer to cutting its benchmark interest rate from its 23-year peak.

Consumer prices excluding volatile food and energy costs — the closely watched “core” index — rose 0.2% from April to May, the government said Wednesday. That was down from 0.3% the previous month and was the smallest increase since October. Measured from a year earlier, core prices rose 3.4%, below last month’s 3.6% increase.

Fed officials are scrutinizing each month’s inflation data to assess their progress in their fight against rising prices. Even as overall inflation moderates, such necessities as groceries, rent and health care are much pricier than they were three years ago — a continuing source of public discontent and a political threat to President Joe Biden’s re-election bid. Most other measures suggest that the economy is healthy: Unemployment remains low, hiring is robust and consumers are traveling, eating out and spending on entertainment.

Overall inflation also slowed last month, with consumer prices unchanged from April to May, in part because of sharp falls in the cost of gasoline, air fares and new cars. Measured from a year earlier, consumer prices rose 3.3%, less than the 3.6% increase a month earlier.

The cost of auto insurance, which has soared in recent months, actually dipped from April to May, though it’s still up more than 20% from a year earlier. Grocery prices were unchanged last month, after declining slightly in April. They’re now up just 1% on a year-over-year basis.

The Fed has kept its key rate unchanged for nearly a year after having rapidly raised it in 2022 and 2023 to fight the worst bout of inflation in four decades. Those higher rates have led, in turn, to more expensive mortgages, auto loans, credit cards and other forms of consumer and business borrowing. Though inflation is now far below its peak of 9.1% in mid-2022, it remains above the Fed’s target level.

Persistently elevated inflation has posed a vexing challenge for the Fed, which raises interest rates — or keeps them high — to try to slow borrowing and spending, cool the economy and ease the pace of price increases.

The longer the Fed keeps borrowing costs high, the more it risks weakening the economy too much and causing a recession. Yet if it cuts rates too soon, it risks reigniting inflation. Most of the policymakers have said they think their rate policies are slowing growth and should curb inflation over time.

Inflation had fallen steadily in the second half of last year, raising hopes that the Fed could pull off a “soft landing,” whereby it manages to conquer inflation through higher interest rates without causing a recession. Such an outcome is difficult and rare.

But inflation came in unexpectedly high in the first three months of this year, delaying hoped-for Fed rate cuts and possibly imperiling a soft landing.

In early May, Chair Jerome Powell said the central bank needed more confidence that inflation was returning to its target before it would reduce its benchmark rate. Several Fed officials have said in recent weeks that they needed to see several consecutive months of lower inflation.

Some signs suggest that inflation will continue to cool in the coming months. Americans, particularly lower-income households, are pulling back on their spending. In response, several major retail and restaurant chains, including Walmart, Target, Walgreen’s, McDonald’s and Burger King, have responded by announcing price cuts or deals.

Кожен субʼєкт господарювання, який сплачує підвищений військовий збір у 20 000 гривень на місяць за працівника – має можливість його забронювати

Ще один грант на 62 мільйони доларів буде спрямовано на дрібні та середні ремонти частково пошкоджених житлових будинків

«Ми збираємо фінансову міць, щоб допомогти Україні вистояти та відновитися», заявила Урсула фон дер Ляєн

Контракт на транзит російського газу до Європи через українську територію закінчується наприкінці року

A drone equipped with a painting hose is being deployed against stubborn graffiti in hard-to-reach areas. Natasha Mozgovaya has more in this week’s episode of LogOn.

Президентка Єврокомісії також нагадала, що ЄС вже мобілізував 200 мільйонів євро на невідкладний ремонт енергосистеми

«Нам потрібні зовнішні інвестиції та трансфер технологій від наших партнерів»

На думку компаній, український уряд для допомогти бізнесу повинен забезпечити чітку та прозору процедуру бронювання від мобілізації

Йдеться про підприємство з виробництва упаковки для м’ясопереробної галузі «ПентоПак», який належав російському олігарху Івану Саввіді

«Термінові потреби на 2024 рік оцінюються у 872,6 мільйона доларів США», йдеться в повідомленні

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НОВИНИ

Лідери G7 погодилися надати Україні 50 млрд доларів до кінця року за рахунок активів Росії

Канцлер Німеччини Олаф Шольц назвав рішення «історичним кроком», який дозволить Україні захистити власний суверенітет …

Google AI Gemini parrots China’s propaganda

Washington — VOA’s Mandarin Service recently took Google’s artificial intelligence assistant Gemini for a test drive by asking it dozens of questions in Mandarin, but when it was asked about topics…

AI copyright fight turns to disclosing original content

Artists and other creators say their works have been used to build the multibillion-dollar generative AI industry without any compensation for them. Matt Dibble reports on a proposed U.S. law…

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