ByteDance Caught Using OpenAI Tech: License or Violation?


ByteDance Caught Using OpenAI Tech: License or Violation?
© Getty Images News/Mario Tama

Recent revelations have come to light regarding Chinese tech giant ByteDance's use of OpenAI’s technology, raising questions about the extent of this usage and potential violations of service terms.

Admission and Suspension: ByteDance’s Limited Use of OpenAI

ByteDance, the Beijing-based company behind TikTok, has acknowledged using OpenAI’s technology, albeit to a “very limited extent”.

This statement was issued after OpenAI, a San Francisco-based firm, suspended ByteDance’s account over concerns about how its GPT data was being utilized. A spokesperson from ByteDance informed CNN that their engineering team employs OpenAI’s GPT and other third-party models during the evaluation and testing phases.

"ByteDance is licensed by Microsoft to use the GPT APIs," the spokesperson added, noting that GPT powers products and features in markets outside China, as OpenAI’s services are not available there.
APIs, or application programming interfaces, facilitate communication and integration between different software programs.

In China, ByteDance asserts that it solely relies on its self-developed AI model to operate Doubao, a tool similar to ChatGPT offering chat robots, writing assistance, English learning support, and other services.

Controversy and OpenAI’s Response

However, the situation took a controversial turn following a report by The Verge, which claimed that ByteDance was "secretly" using OpenAI’s technology to train its large language model (LLM), potentially breaching OpenAI’s terms of service.

OpenAI explicitly prohibits users from developing rival AI models using ChatGPT output. Responding to these allegations, OpenAI confirmed the suspension of ByteDance’s account.

"All API customers must adhere to our usage policies to ensure that our technology is used for good.

While ByteDance’s use of our API was minimal, we have suspended their account while we further investigate," OpenAI stated.

The tech firm also clarified that if ByteDance’s usage is found to be in violation of their policies, necessary actions, including account termination, would be pursued.

This development comes as several Chinese tech giants, including Baidu, Alibaba, and SenseTime, have showcased their ChatGPT-style tools.