Australian mayor may sue ChatGPT in a ‘landmark’ defamation case

ChatGPT had wrongly declared that the mayor had served time in prison for bribery.
Baba Tamim
OpenAI CEO Sam Altman.
OpenAI CEO Sam Altman.

Wikimedia Commons 

An Australian mayor has threatened to sue OpenAI for false allegations that he served time in prison for bribery.

Brian Hood, the mayor of Australia's Hepburn Shire, plans to sue OpenAI's owner if the company does not retract the ChatGPT's inaccurate statements, according to a report by Reuters on Wednesday. 

"It would potentially be a landmark moment in the sense that it's applying this defamation law to a new area of artificial intelligence and publication in the I.T. space," James Naughton, a lawyer at Hood's law company Gordon Legal, told Reuters. 

"He's an elected official, his reputation is central to his role," said Naughton.

Hood used the public record to expose corporate wrongdoing. Therefore, it matters to him "if people in his community are accessing this material."

In a letter to OpenAI, Hood's attorneys warned that if the firm didn't correct the incorrect information within 28 days, Hood might file a lawsuit.

In an early 2000s foreign bribery case involving a subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of Australia, ChatGPT wrongly declared that Hood had served time in prison for bribery.

Hood was never accused of a crime; instead, all that had been done was to disclose the bribes to the police.

In Australia, the maximum amount of damages that can be awarded for defamation is typically A$400,000 (approx U.S $269,360). 

The precise number of people who have accessed the bogus information about Hood is unknown to Hood. Naughton claims that because of the seriousness of the defamatory assertions, he may be able to recover more than A$200,000 (approx U.S. $135,140).

Hood would charge ChatGPT with deceiving users by leaving out footnotes if he brought legal action, argued the lawyer as per the Reuters report.

"It's very difficult for somebody to look behind that to say, 'How does the algorithm come up with that answer?'" said Naughton. "It's very opaque."

The attorneys noted that Mr. Hood's legal letter had yet to receive a response from San Francisco-based OpenAI.

San Francisco-based OpenAI and Microsoft have not responded to the controversy yet.

The mayor of Australia is one of many to have issues with OpenAI's ChatGPT. Last week, Italy became the first Western country to block the conversational chatbot ChatGPT.

In the meantime, the news is that Germany may consider stopping ChatGPT due to privacy concerns.

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