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ChatGPT blocked in your country? Follow these steps to unlock it

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ChatGPT, an AI-powered chatbot that can give human-like answers to questions ranging from the most mundane to the most sophisticated, has captured the hearts and minds of tens of millions of people around the world. However, it has also raised concerns about privacy and security that have only been exacerbated after ChatGPT suffered its first-ever personal data breach, with chat histories and payment-related information being leaked.

OpenAI, a company behind ChatGPT, has never made its massively popular chatbot available worldwide. But while ChatGPT has been geofencing itself in several countries from the start, Italy became the first Western country to explicitly ban the chatbot post-factum, that is after its launch there. Now, Germany may also follow suit. Amid fears that Italy could set a precedent for other countries, let’s have a look at what exactly ChatGPT did to fall out of favor with Rome.

Why is ChatGPT blocked in Italy?

Garante, the Italian data protection authority, ordered OpenAI to temporarily disable ChatGPT for Italians and stop processing their data on March 31, citing a violation of privacy laws, namely the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Specifically, the regulator noted that OpenAI has “no legal basis” for collecting and processing massive amounts of personal data it uses to train AI algorithms. It also pointed out that ChatGPT could generate misleading responses and that it doesn’t have an age verification system in place to prevent minors from accessing content that was “absolutely inappropriate to their age and awareness.”

The regulator gave OpenAI 20 days to comply or potentially face a fine of €20 million or up to 4% of its global revenue. While CEO Sam Altman contended that OpenAI follows “all privacy laws,” the company chose not to tempt fate and blocked access to GPT in Italy the same day, promising to refund all users who paid for subscriptions and put subscription renewals on ice.

Where else is ChatGPT blocked?

Barring Italy, ChatGPT is accessible in most of the developed countries. Currently, there are more than 170 countries, regions, and territories on the OpenAI list of supported locations. However, the list is not final, as OpenAI may add or remove certain countries over time.

At the time of writing, ChatGPT is off limits in over a dozen countries, among them: China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Egypt, Belarus, Venezuela, Afghanistan, Italy (presumably temporarily), Cuba, Hong Kong, Myanmar, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Burundi, Somalia.

There may be various reasons why ChatGPT is unavailable in a particular country, such as local regulations or poor internet infrastructure. OpenAI has never provided a clear explanation for why some countries are not supported, stating that “conditions in certain countries” make it “difficult or impossible” to provide access to ChatGPT in a way that is “consistent” with its mission.

Which countries may ban ChatGPT in the future?

Italy’s decision to block ChatGPT over privacy concerns could embolden other countries in the EU to try to do the same, as the GDPR applies across the bloc. OpenAI doesn’t have an office in the EU, which means any member state can launch its own investigation into the chatbot and ban it. Germany’s data protection commissioner has already said Berlin may take a similar approach to Italy. Privacy regulators in France and Ireland have also asked the Italian government for more information about the ban, and may potentially follow suit.

Elsewhere, a privacy watchdog in Canada has launched a probe into OpenAI over alleged disclosure of personal data without consent, which could also potentially lead to its shutdown there.

How to unblock ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is still unavailable in many countries, and as more countries look into regulating AI, it might face more legal woes, and, consequently, more bans. Not wanting to miss out on the benefits of cutting-edge tech, users seek to circumvent geo-restrictions. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to unblock ChatGPT:

  1. Download and install a VPN service on your device, such as AdGuard VPN.
  2. Connect to a VPN server in a country where ChatGPT is not blocked. This will make it look like you are accessing ChatGPT from that country.
  3. Go to the OpenAI website and sign up for an account. You will need to provide a valid email address and a phone number. You should use a foreign phone number to get around the ban.
  4. Verify your email address and phone number by entering the code that OpenAI sends you.
  5. If you want to purchase a subscription, a paid version of ChatGPT called ChatGPT Plus, use a foreign payment method that is not linked to your location as OpenAI only accepts cards in supported countries.
  6. Once your account is activated, you can access ChatGPT and start using it. You should always connect to a VPN server when using ChatGPT to avoid being blocked.

However, keep in mind that sidestepping OpenAI’s geo-restrictions may not be ethical, may violate OpenAI’s terms of service, and may have legal ramifications. It’s important to consider this, as well as the laws of your country, before attempting to bypass ChatGPT’s ban.

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