Lawyer Richard Stevens writes a wonderfully clear article about AI and law. Jonathan Turley, a public figure, was specifically libeled by ChatGPT, which provided a false “fact” to several people. The “fact” was totally false and accusatory.
Stevens goes through the details of libel and finds that ChatGPT clearly fits three of the standards. The fourth one is more difficult:
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Prof. Turley would have to prove that ChatGPT published the defamatory accusation either “knowing” it was false, or recklessly not caring whether it was true. It is already tricky to sue ChatGPT itself since the defendant in a successful civil suit has always been a human individual or entity (corporation, government, or other legal “person”). ChatGPT would not be a traditionally acceptable proper defendant.
Moreover, to prove defamation, Turley as a public figure has to show ChatGPT knew it was publishing a false defamatory statement. The other avenue would be proving ChatGPT recklessly didn’t care if it published a false accusation of serious misconduct.
Hold it right there. Can ChatGPT be held to “know” anything at all? Ask ChatGPT – the bot identifies as
a large language model trained by OpenAI … I am designed to understand natural language and generate responses to various prompts and questions. My purpose is to assist users in generating human-like text based on their input.
ChatGPT does not claim to be a truth-teller. It does not claim to know anything, only to generate “human-like text.” If ChatGPT cannot know anything, then it cannot be liable for publishing text about which it knows nothing. ChatGPT doesn’t even know what its published sentences mean, let alone whether they are true.
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The ‘person’ part shouldn’t be hard. ChatGPT is a tool working for OpenAI. It is a computer program designed and parameterized by OpenAI. The corporation is clearly the defendant. A corporation is suable when a company-owned and company-designed bulldozer injures a pedestrian.
The last paragraph is an exact description of the wetware bulldozers known as “journalists”. They no longer claim to be truth-tellers. They obviously do not know anything. They don’t know the meaning of what they say. They get obvious basic observable facts wildly wrong, more often than ChatGPT.
So the libel suit should work the same way as suing NBC for a libelous statement read by one of its wetware announcers. We know that TV networks and newspapers write or approve everything that appears on the air or in print or the website.