AI-powered telemarketing bots harangue Chinese customers

Occurred: 2018-

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Highly realistic automated voice bots making up to 3,000 unsolicited calls a day each even when they were blocked led to a huge volume of complaints and accusations of illegal and unethical conduct.

The bots, developed by Silicon Intelligence, Wan Xi Intelligence and other China-based companies, bombarded people in China and elsewhere on their home and mobile phones with calls selling insurance policies, property, pharmaceutical products and much else. 

According to the developers, the systems can make 3,000 phone calls a day, identify and support multiple Chinese dialects, talk in a natural-sounding manner, and can increase sales by 140 per cent without human intervention. 

The practice raised concerns about privacy. In addition, the robotic voices were said to be unexpectedly realistic and easily confused for those of real human beings, raising questions about the potential use of the systems and technology for fraud.


Developer: Silicon Intelligence; Wan Xi Intelligence
Country: China
Sector: Multiple
Purpose: Sell products/services
Technology: Speech recognition; Text-to-speech
Issue: Ethics/values; Privacy
Transparency: Governance