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Walters v. OpenAI

In Walters v. OpenAI, the radio talk show host Mark Walters sued OpenAI for defamation after he found out that when a journalist prompted ChatGPT for information about an unrelated lawsuit, the tool falsely described Walters as a defendant in the case who had been accused of fraud. Walters is seeking monetary compensation from the company for the alleged reputational damage that its tool caused. Walters initially filed his lawsuit in Georgia state court back in June 2023. The case has moved slowly, in part because OpenAI sought to remove it to federal court. The case now appears headed back to state court for further proceedings.

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 statements. Among other things, OpenAI has also argued that ChatGPT fails to meet defamation’s “publication” requirement. 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.”

LAST UPDATED 12/04/2023