ChatGPT was just blocked by the biggest US school district. Here's why

New York City Department of Education restricts access to the ChatGPT chatbot for both staff and students.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer
Reviewed by Alyson Windsor
Image: Getty Images/Maskot

New York City Schools, the largest school department in the US, has blocked student and teacher access to ChatGPT on its devices and networks.    

The generative AI chatbot, which was released in November by Microsoft-backed OpenAI, is capable of generating well-composed and convincing answers to questions about numerous subjects, including writing code to solve programming questions and writing essays -- so long as the question is about something that happened before 2021. 

Also: What is ChatGPT and why does it matter? Here's what you need to know

ChatGPT can't access the internet to search for answers and its knowledge base doesn't include any event that occurred after 2021. 

ChatGPT generated answers have already been temporarily banned by developer question and answer site Stack Overflow due to users submitting quickly produced, authentic looking but low quality answers that overwhelmed moderators. There are also concerns students could start using ChatGPT to submit AI-written essays. 

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New York City Department of Education told the education new site Chalkbeat New York that was it restricting access on its networks and devices due to "negative impacts on student learning, and concerns regarding the safety and accuracy of content." 

There are fears that the chatbot's ability to write essays about numerous subjects could render traditional writing assignments obsolete, removing an economically viable and long-established method of testing student's knowledge and their ability to express ideas.   

"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," education department spokesperson Jenna Lyle told ChalkBeat. 

Also: OpenAI's ChatGPT is scary good at my job

"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."

The department will still allow individual schools to request access to the ChatGPT website if they intend to study the technology behind it. 

Also, what impact it will have on the risk of cheating on essays remains to be seen since students can still access the site their own devices and networks outside of the school. 

Teachers aren't the only group unsettled by ChatGPT. Google's management have reportedly declared a "code red" about ChatGPT's potential to upend the search engine business. Microsoft, which invested $1 billion in to OpenAI, could also use ChatGPT to enhance its Bing search engine.  

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