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New York City Schools Ban ChatGPT to Head Off a Cheating Epidemic

The chatbot can write entire essays in a matter of seconds, but the NYC Education Department has "concerns regarding the safety and accuracy of content."

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The ChatGPT backlash has officially begun. On Wednesday, New York City public schools barred teachers and students from using the chatbot, apparently fearing that the powerful AI would lead to a tsunami of cheating.

The ban was originally reported by Chalkbeat New York, which wrote that the city had blocked the program on school internet and devices.

Why has the Big Apple put the kibosh on America’s new favorite chatbot? In a statement provided to Gizmodo, New York City Education Department spokesperson Jenna Lyle broke it down like this:

“Due to concerns about negative impacts on student learning, and concerns regarding the safety and accuracy of content, access to ChatGPT is restricted on New York City Public Schools’ networks and devices. While the tool may be able to provide quick and easy answers to questions, it does not build critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, which are essential for academic and lifelong success.”

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Roughly translated, what the city seems to be saying is: students are definitely going to use this thing to cheat on tests, to “automate” their essay-writing, and to otherwise avoid doing what they’re supposed to be doing. NYC Public Schools’ statement also seems to make reference to ChatGPT’s accuracy problem (the chatbot’s answers are often full of factual errors and it has a penchant for making shit up). Of course, New York’s administrators aren’t the first to express concern for how OpenAI’s chatbot might impact education, but they are the first in the country to actually do something about it.

More and more people seem to be waking up to the darker implications of ChatGPT’s technology. While the chatbot has so far managed to impress users with its ability to spin up a wealth of creative material (its short stories and screenplays are admittedly pretty wild), concerns persist over how it will inevitably be misused. When it comes to education specifically, many have predicted that ChatGPT will be used to cheat, to automatically fabricate college essays, and to otherwise hamper students’ ability to learn and do things for themselves.

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On a related note, a college student spent New Year’s Day creating an app that can decipher you decipher what content was written by a human and what was spawned by ChatGPT—because that’s a thing we apparently need now, an algorithm telling us if something was written by an algorithm. Hoo boy, the future sure is going to be weird.