ChatGPT: how OpenAI’s bot is used in war-torn Ukraine

As ChatGPT, the machine learning-powered chatbot from OpenAI, finally becomes available in Ukraine, we look at its practical uses in the country that has been countering Russian aggression for over a year.

The artificial intelligence (AI) program or bot that provides articulate responses to user prompts across various topics has been experimented with by users all over the world since November – but Ukrainians are only starting to test it now.

A thorny path

Up until February, ChatGPT was blocked in Ukraine. It remains unavailable in Russia, China, Afghanistan, Belarus, Venezuela, and Iran. Usually, it's unclear why the developer blocks access in some locations, but in this case, OpenAI came back with a letter addressed to Ukraine’s Ministry of Digitization explaining its position.

Allegedly, the cited reason concerned sanctions that apply to the Russian-occupied Luhansk and Donetsk regions, as well as the annexed Crimea. Previously, OpenAI told Motherboard that certain countries make it difficult or impossible for the company to provide its services in a way that is consistent with its mission.

Deputy Minister of Digital Transformation Oleksandr Bornyakov told Forbes that sanctions related to the occupied territories forced the block as “they don’t know how to distinguish them from clients [who are] from the rest of Ukraine.”

Ukrainians, however, were excited about the prospects of ChatGPT, with Mykhailo Fedorov, who serves as Ukraine’s Minister of Digital Transformation, saying:

“Ukrainians are tech-savvy, cool, and ready to test innovations now. Personally [I] will use your tool to make my Twitter account great again.”

After official appeals, calls, and even a meeting with the management on behalf of the Ministry of Digital Transformation, ChatGPT has finally become available in Ukraine. Restricted access will still apply to occupied territories, to prevent disinformation.

Shortly after the update, Ukrainian site designer Weblium added the functionality known as “AI writing,” which allows users to access ChatGPT directly during site creation.

ChatGPT is now available in Ukrainian, with users eager to make full use of the chatbot – often in spite of OpenAI founder Sam Altman’s warning that ChatGPT is incredibly limited and should not be relied on for “important” things just yet.

ChatGPT offers to stop war in eight steps

We can safely assume that the last thing Ukrainians expected from access to OpenAI’s chatbot is a step-by-step guide on how to resolve the conflict with Russia.

But here it is: an eight-point solution provided at the request of author and former Indian diplomat Vikas Swarup, who asked for a mediation plan.

ChatGPT acknowledged that the ongoing war is a complex issue, but offered eight of its possible solutions with descriptions: Negotiations, Ceasefire, Decentralisation, International Monitoring, Economic Assistance, Recognition of the Sovereignty of Ukraine, Cultural Protection, and Military Withdrawal.

The program laid out a framework for finding common ground and setting up the path to future cooperation, with additional financial support for Ukraine issued by institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank.

Shashi Tharoor, the chairman of the All India Professionals' Congress (AIPC), India’s political platform focused on entrepreneurs, praised the experiment but cautioned against relying on ChatGPT’s advice as “in conflicts leaders are irrational in ways beyond AI’s comprehension.” He also added that he envisions a “several objections” from both sides, but especially, the Russians.

Ukraine has greatly relied AI to target Russian forces, with the CEO of US software firm Palantir, Alex Karp, pointing out how the use of wartime AI has become the top concern since the outbreak of full hostilities. According to him, it is not an “ethics issue” anymore but a top concern for all leaders around the globe.

As such, Ukraine has started using Clearview AI’s facial recognition technology to uncover Russian assailants, combat misinformation, and identify the dead.

So it only seems to be a matter of time until ChatGPT can find its place in Ukraine for better information sharing and education during the conflict. However, Daniel Spicer, a chief security officer at the software company Ivanti, told Cybernews that ChatGPT “doesn't know what a fact is,” highlighting its potential for misinformation which still needs to be addressed.

The geoblocks in place also seem to be of little use against Russian hackers eager to circumvent them, according to Check Point Research (CPR). Cybercriminals have been noticed lurking around dark-web forums, discussing options for bypassing restrictions and utilizing the program.

AI, keep my records in check

Yet, ChatGPT’s popularity goes beyond commercial or even war-related use. Some Ukrainian officials are utilizing OpenAI’s bot for their benefit – regardless of how trivial it might be.

Tymofiy Mylovanov, a Ukrainian economist and former Minister of Economic Development, Trade, and Agriculture of Ukraine uses ChatGPT to keep transcripts of conversations with colleagues. The process looks pretty straightforward: he records nearly every business meeting and sends the copy to ChatGPT, receiving a transcript within 60 seconds.

The AI bot also prepares a short summary of conversations and upon request will recap any and all agreements reached at meetings. Following a brief editing session, Mylovanov receives “a high-quality meeting post, an action plan, [details of] responsible parties, deadlines, and so on.”

“So my meetings now look like this: 15 minutes of discussion, 10 minutes of processing the transcript, another 10-15 minutes of discussion with the team to agree on the final action plan, and so forth. In my experience, this significantly improves the team's understanding of what was specifically agreed at the meeting, and who does what or is responsible for what.”

Companies such as JPMorgan Chase, Amazon, Verizon, and Accenture have reportedly banned their staff from using ChatGPT at work or directly sharing any sensitive information with it, citing security concerns.

Universities and schools around the world have also joined in with the ban, barring students and pupils from using the AI bot, which they argue could be used for cheating and spreading misinformation.

Nonetheless, Ukrainian users are excited about the prospects of ChatGPT, with its utility likely relying on updates and the verification of displayed information.