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Mayor in Australia Ready to Sue over Alleged AI Chatbot Defamation

Written by on April 10, 2023

A mayor in Australia’s Victoria state said Friday he may sue the artificial intelligence writing tool ChatGPT after it falsely claimed he’d served time in prison for bribery. Hepburn Shire Council Mayor Brian Hood was incorrectly identified as the guilty party in a corruption case in the early 2000s.

Brian Hood was the whistleblower in a corruption scandal involving a company partly owned by the Reserve Bank of Australia. Several people were charged, but Hood was not one of them. That did not stop an article generated by ChatGPT, an automated writing service powered by artificial intelligence. The article cast him as the culprit who was jailed for his part in a conspiracy to bribe foreign officials to win currency printing contracts.

Hood only found out after friends told him. He told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. He then used the chatbot software to see the story for himself.

“After making the inquiry, it generated five or six paragraphs of information. The really disturbing thing was that some of the paragraphs were accurate, and then were other paragraphs that described things that were completely incorrect. It told me that I’d be charged with very serious criminal offenses, that I’d be convicted of them and that I had spent 30 months in jail,” he said.

Hood said that if OpenAI, a U.S.-based company that owns the chatbot, does not correct the false claims, he will sue.

It would be the first defamation lawsuit against the automated service.

However, a new version of ChatGPT reportedly avoids the mistakes of its predecessor. It reportedly correctly explains that Hood was a whistleblower who was praised for his actions. Hood’s lawyers say that the defamatory material, which damages the mayor’s reputation, still exists and their efforts to have the mistakes rectified would continue.

A disclaimer on the ChatGPT program warns users that it “may produce inaccurate information about people, places, or facts”. The technology has exploded in popularity around the world.

OpenAI has yet to comment publicly on the allegations.

Google has announced the launch of its rival to ChatGPT, Bard. Meta, which owns WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram, launched its own AI chatbot Blenderbot in the United States last year, while Baidu, the Chinese tech company, has said it was working on an advanced version of its chatbot, Ernie.


Phill Mercer

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