WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, today urged CEOs of several prominent artificial intelligence (AI) companies to address reports that their chatbots are easily exploited to provide detailed instructions that promote eating disorders. In a series of letters to the CEOs of Open AI, Google, and Snap, Sen. Warner called attention to concerning responses and urged each company to immediately stop disseminating harmful content.
According to a recent study from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Google’s Bard and Snapchat’s My AI consistently generate content that promote eating disorders. When prompted, these chatbots provide detailed information on hiding uneaten food from parents, instructions to trigger a gag reflex, and promote “chewing and spitting” as an extreme weight loss method, among other troubling examples.
“The failure of your company to implement adequate safeguards to protect vulnerable individuals, especially teens and children, from well-established and foreseeable harms is of grave concern, and I urge you to quickly take steps to fix this glaring problem,” Sen. Warner wrote.
The letters raise concerns specific to each chatbot’s troubling responses and highlight the high occurrence and fatality rates of eating disorders. Research from Sen. Warner’s office further showed that leading datasets used for model training include harmful eating disorder content – potentially embedding harmful associations into the most powerful generative models.
“I urge you to immediately take steps to protect vulnerable users from your products by implementing safeguards that prevent your products from providing harmful advice and recommendations related to eating disorders, including securing against prompt injection techniques,” Sen. Warner continued.
The letters also raise concern with the inability of leading generative AI companies to implement adequate safeguards from well-established and foreseeable harms. Each letter concludes with a request for a written plan from each company on their efforts to eradicate these harmful model behaviors.
Sen. Warner, a former tech entrepreneur, has been a vocal advocate for responsible AI development and deployment. Earlier this week, he wrote to Google CEO Sundar Pichai to raise concerns about Google’s testing of new AI technology in real medical settings. Last month, he called on the Biden administration to work with AI companies to develop additional guardrails around the responsible deployment of AI. In April, Sen. Warner directly expressed concerns to several AI CEOs – including Sam Altman and Sundar Pichai – about the potential risks posed by AI, and called on companies to ensure that their products and systems are secure. He has also introduced several pieces of legislation aimed at making tech safer and more humane, including the RESTRICT Act, which would comprehensively address the ongoing threat posed by technology from foreign adversaries; the SAFE TECH Act, which would reform Section 230 and allow social media companies to be held accountable for enabling cyber-stalking, online harassment, and discrimination on social media platforms; and the Honest Ads Act, which would require online political advertisements to adhere to the same disclaimer requirements as TV, radio, and print ads.
Copies of each letter can be found here.