The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is reportedly investigating OpenAI over whether the company's flagship ChatGPT conversational AI made “false, misleading, disparaging or harmful” statements about people.
The Washington Post first reported the news, citing access to a 20-page letter to OpenAI asking for information on complaints about disparagement and reputational harm. The letter reportedly states that the FTC is “exploratory” in its investigation, meaning that it is still in the early stages and no conclusions have been reached.
It is unclear what complaint prompted the FTC to start looking into ChatGPT. It is unusual for the regulator to start a random investigation without receiving a complaint. However, the authority says it is looking into whether OpenAI is failing to adequately monitor and moderate the ChatGPT's output, and of violating its own ethical principles and social responsibility standards.
OpenAI, which was founded in 2015 by a group of prominent tech entrepreneurs and researchers, including Elon Musk and Sam Altman, has not commented on the investigation, but has previously stated that it is committed to ensuring the safe and beneficial use of its technology, and that it has implemented various safeguards and filters to prevent harmful or abusive content from being generated by ChatGPT.
Concerns About the Safety of AI Chatbots
Despite its success, the chatbot has also raised concerns about its potential misuse and abuse, as some users have exploited its capabilities to create fake news, spam messages, phishing emails, and offensive or hateful comments.
The FTC has the authority to impose fines, injunctions, or other remedies if it finds that OpenAI has engaged in unfair or deceptive practices that harm consumers or competition. The agency has previously taken action against companies that have misused or mishandled consumer data, such as Facebook and Google.
The investigation into OpenAI is part of a broader effort by the FTC to regulate the emerging and rapidly evolving field of artificial intelligence, which poses new challenges and opportunities for consumer protection and competition policy.
News of the FTC probe comes the same week that comedian Sarah Silverman and two authors filed a lawsuit against OpenAI claiming the company stole their works to train ChatGPT. The plaintiffs allege that the companies used their content without their knowledge or consent, and that they did not properly attribute the source of the content. They are seeking damages and an injunction preventing the companies from using their content in the future.