ChatGPT maker OpenAI has banned ByteDance from using its AI chatbot after the Chinese company was caught using it to train its own model. TikTok’s parent company ByteDance was actively violating the developer license of both Microsoft and OpenAI by using GPT to generate training data for a competing model in China.

Following ByteDance’s account suspension, OpenAI spokesperson Niko Felix shared the following statement to confirm ByteDance’s denial of access.

“All API customers must adhere to our usage policies to ensure that our technology is used for good. While ByteDance’s use of our API was minimal, we have suspended their account while we further investigate. If we discover that their usage doesn’t follow these policies, we will ask them to make necessary changes or terminate their account.”

OpenAI’s terms of service clearly state that its AI model cannot be used “to develop any artificial intelligence models that compete with our products and services.” Microsoft has the same terms of service for its AI products, which are largely powered by OpenAI’s GPT 4. ByteDance had been buying access to GPT 4 through Microsoft’s Azure platform.

Internal documents reviewed by The Verge confirm that OpenAI’s API had been used by ByteDance to work on a Large Language Model (LLM) codenamed “Project Seed”. GPT had been used at nearly every phase of Project Seed’s development including training and evaluating the model.

ByteDance’s employees had been well aware of the implications involved with using OpenAI’s licensed technology for their own means. Conversations seen on ByteDance’s internal communication platform for employees show guides on how to whitewash the evidence through data decentralization.

Following regulatory approval for its chatbot, Doubao, in China, ByteDance issued instructions to its employees to discontinue the use of the API for the development of Project Seed. However, The Verge reported that despite these directives, the API continued to be utilized for the evaluation of their in-house chatbot’s performance.

In a statement shared with Business Insider, ByteDance has denied any wrongdoing in the matter. A spokesperson from the Chinese company said:

“ByteDance is licensed by Microsoft to use the GPT APIs. We use GPT to power products and features in non-China markets but use our self-developed model to power Doubao, which is available ONLY in China.