Culture 3 min read

China Shuts Down Federal Corruption-Detecting AI

China just officially announced the shut down of its Zero Trust AI system. However, many experts are asking why. | TheDigitalArtist / Pixabay

China just officially announced the shut down of its Zero Trust AI system. However, many experts are asking why. | TheDigitalArtist / Pixabay

China has been using a sophisticated artificial intelligence, Zero Trust, to scour through big data and find signs of corruption within its government since 2012. Now, it's shutting down the project.

Before you get excited about detecting fraud with AI, you should know that local officials are shutting it down in many areas of China. Now, everyone is wondering — why?

According to a researcher involved in the project, “local officials may be shutting the program down because they don’t feel quite comfortable with the technology,” according to the South China Morning Post

However, the Hong Kong newspaper provided a more plausible explanation for shutting the AI down; it was too good at its job.

How Zero Trust Works

China’s artificial intelligence system digs through data from banks, properties, and construction records to detect corruption and fraud. It also uses satellite data when necessary to catch and flag corruption.

For example, the Zero Trust system could easily detect suspicious money transfers between officials. Zero Trust also notices when a government employee purchases a new property, car, or placed a bid for a government contract.

After discovering this transaction, the AI calculates the chances of the action being corrupt. If the result is within a set marker, the official is off the hook. However, if it exceeds the marker, Zero Trust automatically contacts the authorities.

Since its launch in 2012, the AI caught almost 9,000 corrupt government employees. Although a few were sentenced to prison, most of the officials remained in their positions after a stern warning.

As logical as the method sounds, it’s never that simple with Artificial Intelligence.

Read More: AI 101: Why Future AI Will be an Evolution of Us

Is Algorithmic Justice Right?

Using Artificial Intelligence to detect corruption has its advantages, the essential one being its incorruptible nature. However, Chinese officials are wary of the machine, and that’s understandable.

With its ability to read various parts of an officials finances, Zero Trust could efficiently deliver the hammer of justice without explaining its reasoning.

AI may quickly point out a corrupt official, but it is not very good at explaining the process it has gone through to reach such a conclusion,” said an anonymous researcher that’s familiar with the project.

Zhang Yi, an official in one of the provinces that still use the AI, said the machine’s results are never final. “We need to check and verify its validity,” Yi told South China Morning Post.

Although an excellent aide in helping officials capture corrupt officials, it’s important for there to be another human on the other end administering judgment.

For now, the AI may be on a warning of its own, but it would not be unlikely for Zero Trust to return sometime soon.

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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