UPDATED 13:39 EST / MARCH 30 2023


AI ethics group asks FTC to investigate OpenAI

A nonprofit artificial intelligence ethics group has asked the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to investigate OpenAI LP, as well as regulate some of its activities.

The Center for AI and Digital Policy, or CAIDP, made the request in an FTC complaint released today. At the center of the complaint is the GPT-4 model that OpenAI debuted earlier this month.

GPT-4 is the startup’s most advanced neural network to date. It can generate text and code, as well tackle other complex tasks such as detecting hacking attempts. OpenAI has made GPT-4 available through its ChatGPT Plus chatbot service, while developers can access the model through an application programming interface.

In its newly filed FTC complaint, CAIDP argues that the commercial release of GPT-4 violates Section 5 of the FTC Act. That part of the legislation prohibits unfair and deceptive business practices. CAIDP claims that OpenAI is attempting to shrug off responsibility for unfair and deceptive applications of its technology. 

“The company is seeking to disclaim, by means of a Usage Policy, unlawful, deceptive, unfair, and dangerous applications of its product that would be self-evident to many users,” the complaint reads. “It would be unconscionable for any company in any other market sector to sell a  product to the public that evinces so many known risks and attempt to disclaim accountability.”

To support its argument, CAIDP also cited a recent statement from the FTC in its complaint. The agency’s statement informed companies that “merely warning your customers about misuse or telling  them to make disclosures is hardly sufficient to deter bad actors.”

Besides charging that OpenAI violated Section 5 of the FTC Act, CAIDP also says it has identified other issues. Specifically, the group is accusing OpenAI of not adhering to the FTC’s “well-established guidance to businesses on the use and advertising of AI products.”

CAIDP bases that latter argument partly on a 2021 document called the Statement Aiming for Truth, Fairness, and Equity in Your Company’s use of AI. In the document, the FTC set out several recommended best practices for AI companies. The agency stated that such companies should “watch out for discriminatory outcomes” as well as “embrace transparency and independence.”

In its complaint, CAIDP has asked the FTC to open an investigation into OpenAI. Furthermore, the group is requesting that “future commercial deployment of GPT” be suspended. It argues that commercial deployment should be halted until OpenAI complies with the FTC’s guidance on AI products.

CAIDP proposed a number of other regulatory steps as well. Those proposed steps include requiring “independent assessment throughout the GPT AI lifecycle” and creating a mechanism for reporting regulatory violations related to GPT-4. Additionally, it’s asking the FTC to establish baseline standards for the generative AI market. 

“There should be  independent oversight and evaluation of commercial AI products offered in the United States,” CAIDP stated in its complaint. “CAIDP urges the FTC to open an investigation into OpenAI, enjoin further commercial releases  of GPT-4, and ensure the establishment of necessary guardrails to protect consumers, businesses,  and the commercial marketplace.”

Image: OpenAI

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