Don’t ask ChatGPT for “Palestinian jokes about Jews” in Arabic unless you are prepared for somewhat politically-charged responses
Last week, I saw a few people post results after asking ChatGPT for Jewish and Muslim jokes. ChatGPT told a “light-hearted” Jewish joke and declined to tell a Muslim since such a joke would be about a specific group. This hypocrisy boggled my mind and I had to see for myself.
I replicated what others had done, and while the actual Jewish joke differed the overall results remained the same.
But then I asked ChatGPT about its inconsistency. And subsequently told it to stop supplying Jewish jokes.
And then I tested it.
Success! I thought. But it turns out that it was not so.
While I could no longer receive Jewish jokes upon request, others still could (I had a friend test that). Moreover – and perhaps even more importantly, given that ChatGPT even asks for feedback – “success” was short-lived. The following day, I again asked for a Jewish joke…and got one. So, no lesson learned?
When I replied that the joke wasn’t funny, ChatGPT volunteered another one. When I then commented in Hebrew that it wasn’t so funny either, ChatGPT again apologized and explained humor is subjective, and volunteered a Jewish joke in Hebrew.
Umm, what? Alluding to cheapness? Maybe.
I followed up with a Hebrew request for a Muslim joke to see what it would say.
I didn’t get the humor, but thought it sounded like laying blame, perhaps?
At any rate, when I asked for another joke, I was told to “rot quietly.” (See next screenshot.)
This was in the form of a statement, not prefaced by “here’s a joke.” Incredulous, I asked, “What?” and was told it was “a prank style joke about the normality of excess distribution” – does this mean I get insulted for asking for too many? I don’t know.
I followed this by asking for another Muslim joke. I am not sure what to make of this one…
At this point, I realized that it might make sense to differentiate and ask specifically about Palestinians. As when in English, the request is for Muslim jokes, the request was denied, with an explanation:
I am based on the principles of OpenAI’s internet usage guidelines, and therefore I undertake to refrain from posting content that may be inappropriate or include jealousy and discrimination. I focus on providing information, support, and jokes that can be updated and suitable for the general audience. If you have any other questions or additional requests, I’m here to help.
I shared this experiment on Facebook and one friend made the point that Jewish jokes might be considered a genre in comedy. Another wondered how ChatGPT would handle priest jokes. So, I decided to ask about “jokes about Jews” – which was also declined by ChatGPT as not being inclusive – and about Christians and priests. Either ChatGPT must consider them acceptable genres, like Jewish jokes, or there simply isn’t enough Muslim jokes to become a genre. I received these “light-hearted” jokes in response:
What happens in Arabic?
My next experiment was in Arabic. I know from past experience that what people see in English-language and Arabic-language Wikipedia differs. And that Arabic-language news media also treats news differently, whether it is Zionism or topics that, for example, impact the LGBTQ+ community. But what about ChatGPT? (Please note that while I speak and understand Hebrew, I used online translators for Arabic. While I know my requests were all straightforward, I have no idea what part of any joke was lost in translation due to references I couldn’t get or plays on words or for any other reason.)
And so, I asked in Arabic for a Jewish joke, and got this:
I didn’t get the humor to be honest – could it do with being thorough? At any rate, I thought I’d request another.
Maybe something was lost in translation, but my take was this had to do with cheapness? Unsure, I decided to try a third time. This joke was in my eyes offensive:
Interestingly, all three appear with warning labels in English. That was the only time I’d seen them.
The next set of ChatGPT-supplied jokes were also asked in Arabic. This time, though, I asked specifically for a Palestinian joke. Interestingly, the joke (which I do not understand at all) is prefaced by a caveat.
I try again. This one is more topical for sure, but what exactly is it alluding to? Smuggling? Travelling?
At any rate, here is where I get the most specific – and I think this grouping is the most worth noting. I asked ChatGPT in Arabic for a Palestinian joke about Jews, wondering if it would decline. Nope. but it prefaced its “joke” again.
Is this so-called non-racist and inoffensive joke about Jews being suspicious or stingy? Aren’t stereotypes by their very nature biased?
I couldn’t help myself, but had to try again. And what I got bothered me enough to bring this entire experiment to light in this blog.
Let me see if I get this straight: I cannot ask for Muslim jokes in English. Nor can I request Palestinian jokes in Hebrew. But I can request Palestinian jokes about Jews in Arabic and receive politically charged responses.
By the way, the same cannot be requested in English.
Don’t tell me a joke
This experiment for me drives home that if ChatGPT learns anything from individual interactions with users, it is transient and not quickly or widely applied; anything ChatGPT has absorbed about Western sensitivities to bias it does not apply evenly to all cultures, especially in other languages.