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Libel warning over sharp-tongued chat robot

Feb 03. 2012
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By The Nation

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Users of the SimSimi "chat robot" application who post texts deemed libellous to other persons online face prosecution, even if the offensive remarks are generated by the program, Information and Communications Technology Minister Gp Captain Anudith Nak


“We will monitor the online world and take action against offenders,” he said.
He called on people to alert the ICT Ministry if they find libellous messages online. 
“You can call our hotline centre at 1212 round the clock,” Anudith said. 
The SimSimi application, which can be downloaded for free onto iPhones, iPads and Androidbased cellphones, have become a big hit among Thais during the past few weeks. However, the chatrobot application often makes offensive remarks when users mention certain names, particularly those of politicians.
SimSimi also allows users to share their conversations online via media such as Facebook. 
As one of its features, the chat robot memorises answers taught to it by users in order to continue conversations automatically. 
Culture Minister Sukumol Kunplome said the ICT Ministry was asked to contact the South Korean developer of the application and seek its cooperation in removing comments deemed rude or inappropriate. 
“We can’t screen the use of SimSimi the way we monitor the Internet,” she said.
Sukumol said that to an extent, the popularity of SimSimi reflected problems in contemporary relationships.
“Why don’t people talk to their friends or family members, rather than the chat robot?” she asked.
Association of Thai Language Teachers of Thailand president Kanjana Naksakul, who is also a member of the Royal Institute, expressed concern that using SimSimi would desensitise users to rude words. 
“Then, people may come to think that everyone is using the rude words and thus it’s okay to use them,” she said.
She also pointed out that the SimSimi robot might memorise wrong or inappropriate words and repeat them, making it hard for its users to realise how to use language correctly and properly. 
“As Thais, we should campaign for the proper use of the Thai language,” Kanjana said.

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