A mayor from regional Australia has expressed his intention to potentially sue OpenAI if it fails to rectify the false statements made by ChatGPT about him having been incarcerated for bribery. This would mark the first legal action taken against OpenAI’s ChatGPT for defamation.
Brian Hood, who became the mayor of Hepburn Shire, located 120km (75 miles) northwest of Melbourne, last November, was alerted by members of the public that ChatGPT had erroneously implicated him as a guilty party in a bribery scandal involving a subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of Australia in the early 2000s.
Although Hood did work for the subsidiary, Note Printing Australia, he was the individual who notified authorities about the bribery payments made to foreign officials to secure currency printing contracts. Lawyers representing Hood have confirmed that he was never charged with any wrongdoing.
According to Hood’s lawyers, they sent a letter expressing their concern to OpenAI, the owner of ChatGPT, on March 21. The letter granted OpenAI a 28-day deadline to rectify the mistakes made about their client, failing which it may result in a potential lawsuit for defamation.
OpenAI, headquartered in San Francisco, has yet to respond to the legal letter received from Hood’s lawyers, as per their statement.
If Hood decides to pursue legal action, it would likely mark the first instance of an individual suing the owner of ChatGPT over statements made by the automated language product, which has garnered immense popularity since its inception last year. In February, Microsoft Corp integrated ChatGPT into its search engine Bing.
At the moment, there is no comment from a Microsoft spokesperson regarding the issue.
James Naughton, a partner at Gordon Legal, the law firm representing Hood, told reporters that a lawsuit against OpenAI and ChatGPT would be a landmark case, as it would be applying defamation law to a new field of artificial intelligence and publication in the IT industry.
Naughton further elaborated that, being an elected official, Hood heavily relies on his reputation, which is crucial to his role. Hood’s public record demonstrates his dedication to exposing corporate misconduct. Therefore, false accusations made by ChatGPT could have a detrimental impact on his community’s perception of him.
In Australia, damages payouts for defamation cases are generally capped at approximately AU $400,000 ($269,360). While it is uncertain how many people have accessed the false information regarding Hood – a determining factor in the payout size – the defamatory statements against him are severe enough to warrant a claim exceeding AU $200,000 potentially, according to Naughton.
If Hood proceeds with legal action, the lawsuit will accuse ChatGPT of providing users with a misleading sense of accuracy by omitting footnotes, as per Naughton’s statement.
According to Naughton, it is extremely challenging for someone to understand how the algorithm generates a particular answer since the process is opaque, making it challenging to investigate.