Science & Tech

Even AI thought the BBC was in the wrong over Gary Lineker Twitter row

Even AI thought the BBC was in the wrong over Gary Lineker Twitter row
Gary Lineker to return to Match of the Day as BBC apologises

You know the BBC is in trouble when even emotionless artificial intelligence – specifically, ChatGPT - thinks it went a bit too far in criticising Gary Lineker for a tweet in which he compared the Conservative government’s new policy on asylum seekers to 1930s Germany.

The sports pundit was told to step down from Match of the Day amid the row, leading to a 20-minute version of the programme airing on Saturday without any commentary as other presenters pulled out in support.

On Monday, BBC director general Tim Davie apologised for what he described as a “difficult period” for “staff, contributors, presenters and, most importantly, our audiences”, and confirmed an independent review of the broadcaster’s social media policy would be carried out in light of the dispute.

Meanwhile, Lineker took to Twitter to write that he was “delighted that we have navigated a way through this” and thanked colleagues for a “remarkable show of solidarity”.

“I have been presenting sport on the BBC for almost three decades and am immeasurably proud to work with the best and fairest broadcaster in the world. I cannot wait to get back in the MOTD chair on Saturday.

“A final thought: however difficult the last few days have been, it simply doesn’t compare to having to flee your home from persecution or war to seek refuge in a land far away. It’s heart-warming to have seen the empathy towards their plight from so many of you,” he said.

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The statements from BBC and Lineker end a dispute which sparked a heated debate across the country around the broadcaster’s impartiality, its handling of tweets from other contributors such as The Apprentice’s Alan Sugar, and the government’s Illegal Migration Bill.

And when a news story raises difficult questions, it isn’t long before someone decides to ask viral AI chatbot ChatGPT for an answer – and that’s what one Twitter user, known only as Russell, decided to do.

Its response? While warning that it is “important to approach such comparisons with caution” and that “drawing direct parallels can be problematic”, the AI said there are “some similarities” in rhetoric between the Conservative government and the Nazi regime.

It continued: “One similarity is the use of dehumanizing language. The Nazis referred to Jews as ‘vermin’ and ‘parasites’ who were a threat to German society, while some members of the British government have referred to migrants as ‘cockroaches’ and ‘swarms’ who pose a threat to British culture and security."

Well, this isn’t completely true, in that it wasn’t a Tory politician who compared migrants to cockroaches, but the right-wing commentator and former Apprentice contestant Katie Hopkins in a piece she wrote for The Sun in 2015.

One Conservative MP has described migrants as “swarms”, though – that would be former prime minister David Cameron during an interview to ITV News in Vietnam, also in 2015.

‘This is very testing, I accept that, because you have got a swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean, seeking a better life, wanting to come to Britain because Britain has got jobs, it’s a growing economy,” he said.

Reassuring to know ChatGPT is still far from perfect and yet to become our evil overlord.

It goes on to add: “Such language serves to create a sense of otherness and dehumanisation of a particular group, which can be a precursor to discriminatory or violent actions.

“Another similarity is the scapegoating of a particular group for broader societal problems. The Nazi’s blamed Jews for Germany’s economic struggles and other social ills, while some members of the current British government have blamed migrants for putting pressure on public services and taking jobs away from British citizens.”

ChatGPT concluded its answer by stressing the “differences in the historical contexts, the specific language used, and the actions taken”, but also emphasised that it is “crucial to remain vigilant against any rhetoric or actions that seek to dehumanise, scapegoat or discriminate against any group based on their background”.

The experiment led to other Twitter users joking that ChatGPT could be “banned” for saying this, and expressing concern that it appears to be showing more humanity than our current government:

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