Brian Hood, elected mayor of Hepburn Shire, about 75 miles northwest of Melbourne Australia, is threatening to sue OpenAI according to Reuters. This is due to false claims, ChatGPT produced when asked about Hood which claims that he served time in prison for bribery. If allowed to proceed forward, this would be the first defamation lawsuit against the AI startup over ChatGPT.
This came about because members of the public informed Hood that ChatGPT had falsely named him as a guilty party in a foreign bribery scandal involving a subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of Australia in the early 2000s. The issue is that Hood in fact did not work for the subsidiary in question, Note Printing Australia. But this is where it gets interesting. Brain Hood was the person who informed authorities about payments of bribes to officials to win currency printing contracts.
So according to Hood’s lawyers, he was never charged with a crime. So due to this, a letter was sent to OpenAI on March 21st, about the concern and gave the AI startup 28 days to fix the errors about Mr. Hood or face the possibility of a defamation lawsuit. As of this writing, OpenAI has yet to respond to Hood’s legal letter. Nor has OpenAI responded to Reuters about the issue.
When speaking of the potential landmark lawsuit, James Naughton, a partner at Hood’s law firm Gordon Legal said, “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 IT space,“. Mr. Naughton went into more detail about how OpenAI could have found itself in legal trouble, “He’s an elected official, his reputation is central to his role,…so it makes a difference to him if people in his community are accessing this material“.
In Australia, damages for defamation are generally capped at right above a quarter million U.S. dollars. But its not really about the potential risk of having to pay out. If taken to court and found guilty, OpenAI could be left liable in multiple jurisdictions across the globe if its wildly popular chatbot, ChatGPT is unable to generate correct responses when asked about individuals.