China’s state censors tried hard to prevent citizens from watching Google’s artificial intelligence beat the nation’s Go champion.
The nation’s internet censorship gained the nickname “The Great Firewall” for its strict control over what content can be viewed. Most people’s go-to for search queries, Google, is unable to be accessed in the country for example, at least without circumvention. Citizens often use Baidu’s search engine instead.
Competence in sports is a matter of national pride for many, but it’s taken extra seriously in China where it continues to be seen as a kind of status symbol. Go in particular is a 2,000-year-old game which remains largely unchanged. The idea that a computer would (and did) beat Go champion Ke Jie appears to have been enough for state censors to intervene and block live streams of the event.
As reported by the China Digital Times, the censorship notice dictates: “Regarding the Go match between Ke Jie and AlphaGo, no website, without exception, may carry a live stream.” Where a live stream had been announced in advance, the notice demanded the announcement be immediately withdrawn.
Ke Jie was once enthusiastic about his chances and said “Bring it on!” when the AlphaGo AI beat South Korean champion Lee Sedol with a 4-1 victory. Now, however, Ke Jie has vowed never to play against AlphaGo again.
Some websites cleverly skirted the ban with a recreation of the game being played move-by-move on their own Go boards. For viewers outside China, Google has posted the matches on their YouTube channel for all to view.
AlphaGo is powered by the DeepMind AI which Google acquired in 2014. The AI continues to self-improve by playing millions of games against itself.
Are you surprised the state decided to censor the event? Share your thoughts in the comments.