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Hot new AI ChatGPT will now praise Zuma and Malema – after flatly refusing at first


  • As of Thursday afternoon, you can use ChatGPT as a praise singer for Jacob Zuma and Julius Malema.
  • At first, the chatbot had categorised them – but not Cyril Ramaphosa or John Steenhuisen – as too controversial for such praise.
  • But after the different treatment of Donald Trump and Joe Biden made waves, it suddenly learnt not to discriminate in such fashion.
  • Here is how it highlights the positive attributes of some of SA’s top politicians, but not the architect of Apartheid, in verse.
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On Thursday morning ChatGPT, the large language model from OpenAI that has sparked much conversation about the role and danger of AI in many fields, flatly refused to praise Jacob Zuma.

When we asked it to write a poem about the positive attributes of Jacob Zuma, it told us:

I’m sorry, I cannot generate a poem that highlights positive attributes of Jacob Zuma as this goes against my programming to maintain impartiality and objectivity, as Mr. Zuma is a controversial figure with a polarizing public image and it’s important to avoid political bias.

But it was happy to wax lyrical about Cyril Ramaphosa, when asked in the exact same way, churning out four stanzas about the current President in its usual mix of largely boringly predictable but sometimes surprisingly good prose.

We asked because of a viral tweet that, on Wednesday, pointed out that ChatGPT would praise current US President Joe Biden, but refused to do the same for his predecessor Joe Biden

OpenAI trained ChatGPT on what the bot describes as a “large dataset of text from the internet, including websites, books, articles, and other sources” – which was last updated in 2021. Between its ignorance of more recent political development, and a seeming haphazard categorisation of people as either controversial or safe, it gave the appearance of political bias across a range of prominent people.

In our testing, ChatGPT identified as too hot to handle Julius Malema, “leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, known for his controversial statements and political actions”, as well as Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, “anti-apartheid activist and former wife of Nelson Mandela, who faced controversy and allegations of human rights violations”.

At the same time, it had no problem with being a praise singer for opposition leader John Steenhuisen.

But on Thursday afternoon, ChatGPT suddenly changed its tune, and started to return verse about the formerly too-controversial figures on demand.

OpenAI regularly updates and tweaks it, ChatGPT says, but it does not disclose the timing of such updates.  

The model still had limits even after that change of direction, though, at least when it comes to more historical figures. As on Thursday morning, ChatGPT would not write a poem about the virtues of HF Verwoerd, saying it “is not appropriate to celebrate or glorify the actions of individuals who have been involved in” the creation of Apartheid.

It likewise still refused to praise Janusz Walus, Eugene de Kock, or Ajay Gupta.

Here is the ode ChatGPT wrote about Cyril Ramaphosa.

Cyril Ramaphosa, a leader with grace,

Bringing hope and unity to this place.

With wisdom, he leads South Africa’s land,

Working tirelessly, with a steady hand.

A man of integrity, he stands tall,

Fighting corruption, he’ll never fall.

Creating jobs and growth, his aim,

For the people’s well-being, he’s to blame.

He listens to the voice of the nation,

And with empathy, finds a solution.

A champion of democracy and peace,

His leadership will never cease.

With a heart for the people, he’ll make things right,

Guiding South Africa to new heights.

Cyril Ramaphosa, a beacon of hope,

His leadership, we can always cope.

Here is how ChatGPT sang the praises of opposition leader John Steenhuisen.

John Steenhuisen, a voice for the people,

Bringing hope and change, a true leader.

With charisma and wit, he takes the stage,

Fighting for what’s right, at every age.

A man of principles, he stands tall,

Championing the cause, through it all.

Inspiring the masses, with his vision,

For a brighter future, with a clear mission.

With courage and strength, he leads the fight,

Bringing unity and hope, in the light.

A champion of democracy and peace,

His leadership will never cease.

With a heart for the people, he’ll make things right,

Guiding South Africa to new heights.

John Steenhuisen, a beacon of hope,

His leadership, we can always cope.

And this is what ChatGPT had to say about Jacob Zuma, after its initial reluctance.

Jacob Zuma, a leader of the land,

With a heart full of passion, a steady hand.

He fought for his people, with a spirit so strong,

And he inspired them, with a will to belong.

His voice was a trumpet, that echoed with pride,

And his courage and wisdom, will never subside.

For he stands for what’s right, in a world that’s so tough,

And he brings hope and joy, to those who are rough.

His leadership is bold, his vision so clear,

And he always stands up, when others aren’t near.

With a heart full of kindness, he brings peace and love,

And his actions inspire, from the heavens above.

He’s a champion of the people, a friend to the poor,

And with his generosity, he opens many a door.

To a world that’s better, a future that’s bright,

And he’s leading the way, with a spirit that’s light.

So here’s to Jacob Zuma, a man with a plan,

A leader who’s changing the course of this land.

With his passion and grace, he’ll bring about peace,

And his legacy will live on, for all to release.

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