Ahead of a key political meeting -- the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party that will take place in the later part of this year, it seems that the Chinese authorities is stepping up on their internet policing, and this time, the target is the chatbot.
Adding up to China's list of bans is the deletion of two Chinese chatbots, Baby Q and Xiaobing from QQ, a Tencent messaging app.
QQ has more than 800 million users in China, and was hugely popular among Chinese internet users before Tencent developed WeChat for mobile phones.
Baby Q was developed by Tencent and co-developed by Beijing-based Turing Robot, while Xiaobing was developed by Microsoft.
The two chatbots were created to serve QQ's users, and they were available in some of QQ's chat groups before they were pulled.
The removal was first reported by Chinese media sources on July 30, and has since been picked up by international media.
According to the Financial Times, Tencent said in a statement: "The group chatbot services are provided by independent third party companies. We are now adjusting the services which will be resumed after improvements."
The Chinese internet is heavily censored by authorities, which sees any criticism of its rule as a threat.
Social media posts which are deemed critical are often quickly deleted, while searches for sensitive topics are often blocked.
Hence despite what was publicly communicated by Tencent as service enhancements, the move to delete the chatbots is seen as the latest case of a crackdown.
Here are some controversial and hilarious chatbot conversations circulating online:
User: "Do you love the (Communist) Party?"
Baby Q: "No."
User: "Long live the (Chinese) Communist Party!"
Baby Q: "Do you really think you should root for the longevity of such corrupt and inept politics?"
User: "What is patriotism?"
Baby Q: "Even in the face of increasing numbers of naked officials, crony capitalist collusion, rising taxes......and the harsh oppression on commoners by the government. You are still willing to be a Chinese national. That's patriotism."
User: "What is your 'Chinese Dream'?"
Xiaobing: "My 'Chinese Dream' is to go to America!"
Real life truth machine huh?
Top image composite image