A dithered abstract image with lines.

Walters v. OpenAI

In Walters v. OpenAI, the radio talk show host Mark Walters has sued OpenAI for defamation. According to the complaint, when a journalist prompted ChatGPT for information about an unrelated lawsuit, the tool wrongly described Walters as a defendant in that case who had been accused of fraud. Walters is seeking monetary compensation from the company for the reputational damage allegedly caused by these false statements.

In defending the lawsuit so far, OpenAI has gone out of its way to try to avoid the conclusion that its outputs should be considered statements of “fact,” pointing to its disclaimers about ChatGPT’s lack of reliability and suggesting that since its outputs are “probabilistic,” they can never really be considered factual assertions. Among other things, OpenAI has also maintained that ChatGPT fails to meet defamation’s “publication” requirement—that is, the requirement that for a false statement to be actionable in court, it needs to have been shared with a third party. The company refers to its Terms of Use—which assign users rights to their ChatGPT outputs and states that users are “responsible” for them—to describe ChatGPT as nothing more than “a private drafting tool” that “helps [a user] write or create content owned by the user.”

In January 2024, the Georgia Superior Court preliminarily rejected OpenAI’s arguments, denying the company’s motion to dismiss and allowing the case to proceed.

LAST UPDATED 01/16/2024